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Shell/BASF lawsuit (re Brazil)

Shell/BASF lawsuit (re Brazil)

Author: Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

17 Feb 2014

In March 2007, the Brazilian Ministry of Labour and several workers’ associations filed a lawsuit against Shell Brazil and BASF alleging that workers employed at and living near a pesticide plant, first owned by Shell and then by BASF, suffered cancers and other severe health problems as a result of land and groundwater contamination around the plant.  The claim, in Paulínia Labour Court, São Paulo, sought compensation for their illnesses and suffering as well as recovery of medical costs.

In January 2009, the court granted an interim injunction in favour of the plaintiffs, ordering Shell and BASF to pay for medical treatment of all of its former employees and their families.  On 19 August 2010, the court upheld its earlier injunction and ordered the defendants to pay R$64,500 (US$36,700) in compensation to each former worker and any of their children born during or after their service at the factory.  The defendants were also ordered to pay R$ 622 million (US$354 million), in collective compensation for “danos morais” (“moral damages”), into a Worker Protection Fund.  Both defendants appealed the decision.  BASF argued it was not responsible for the damage to workers’ health because it acquired the plant and the contaminated land after the pollution had occurred.  Shell denied any links between its operations and the harms to workers.  On appeal, the São Paulo Labour Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.  In March 2012 Shell and BASF were in settlement talks to determine who should pay the Brazilian damages.  In February 2013 the São Paulo Labour Court reported that Shell and BASF had offered the plaintiffs a settlement — lifelong health plans for each, worth about US$26 million.  The parties agreed to a final settlement in March 2013 worth about 620 million reais (US$316 million).

– “Shell, BASF agree to pay-out over Brazil chemical contamination“, Peter Murphy, Reuters, 11 Mar 2013
– “Shell, BASF offer Brazilian workers millions in class action settlement“, Associated Press, 19 Feb 2013
– “BASF, Shell in talks to settle $653 Million Brazil Contamination Penalty“, Sheenagh Matthews, Bloomberg, 1 Mar 2012
– [Portuguese] “Presidente do TST concede liminar em causa bilionária”, (“President of the Supreme Labour Court grants injunction in billionaire case”), Jornal Jurid, 15 Sep 2010
– [Portuguese] “Justiça do Trabalho reduz multa bilionária imposta à Shell e à Basf”, (“Labour Court reduces billionaire fine to Shell and Basf”), Notícia 23, 10 Sep 2010
– “Thousands exposed to Shell’s toxic waste in Brazil”, Johan van Slooten, Radio Netherlands Worldwide, 20 Aug 2010
– “Shell, Basf Ordered to Pay $354 Million in Brazil Plant Contamination Case”, Laura Price, Bloomberg, 20 Aug 2010
– [Portuguese] ”STJ mantém ação civil da prefeitura de Paulínia (SP) contra a Shell” (“Labour Court decides to proceed  in the Paulinia civil action against Shell”), EcoAgência, 28 Apr 2010
– [Portuguese] “Justiça exige que Shell e Basf custeiem tratamento médico de ex-trabalhadores” (“Justice demands that Shell and Basf pay medical treatment to former employers”), EcoDebate, 12 Apr 2010
– [Portuguese] “Ministério Público do Trabalho move ação contra Shell e Basf” (“Ministry of Labour files a lawsuit against Shell and Basf”), Folha, 9 Mar 2007

– [Portuguese]BASF: “Posicionamento – Caso Shell / Paulínia (“Statment – Shell/Paulina case”), Marina Galvão, 20 Aug 2010
– [PDF] [Portuguese] “Shell e Basf são condenadas ao pagamento de R$ 622 milhões; empresas devem pagar tratamento de saúde e indenização individual a ex-trabalhadores”, Procuradoria Regional do Trabalho da 15 Região [press release from the Office of the Regional Labour Attorney], 2 Sep 2010

– [Portuguese] Supreme Labour Court’s decision, 5 Nov 2010
– [PDF] [Portuguese] Paulínia Labour Court judgment, 19 Aug 2010


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