Shell battles Nigerian communities in high stakes UK lawsuit

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A court in London will decide in coming weeks whether Royal Dutch Shell can face trial in the UK over oil spill allegations in Nigeria, a decision some legal experts predict could attract more cases against multinationals in Britain, Yahoo! Finance reports.

The High Court will judge whether members from two communities, Bille and Ogale in Nigeria’s oil-rich Delta region, can sue the Anglo-Dutch company in British courts. The communities say Nigerian courts are unfit to hear the case against Shell subsidiary Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC). Shell says the case should be heard in Nigeria because the matter is “uniquely a Nigerian problem”.

Shell also denies responsibility for the spills, which it says were due to sabotage and illegal refining. If the High Court rules in favour of the communities, some legal experts say other claimants against British-based multinationals would be emboldened to pursue legal action through the British courts. Some legal experts also warned that a victory by the communities could encourage unscrupulous residents to let oil spills worsen at remote sites by denying clean-up access, as payouts are often linked to the scale of the damage.

 

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