Press release: Okpabi v Shell - Supreme Court rules that Nigerian Communities can have their case against Shell heard in the English Courts

15 February 2021

The Supreme Court has ruled on 12 February 2021 that a case brought on behalf of over 40,000 affected citizens of Nigeria against Shell for alleged environmental degradation in the Niger Delta may be heard in the English courts. It overturned the decision of the Court of Appeal and High Court and reaffirmed its landmark decision in Lungowe v Vedanta.


Kingsley Napley acted jointly for international human rights interveners, the Corporate Responsibility (CORE) Coalition and the International Commission of Jurists (the ICJ), who supported the claimants’ case. The team’s analysis of the judgment can be found here.

Okpabi is a landmark case on corporate accountability for human rights abuses brought by over 40,000 people in respect of oil pollution in the Niger Delta (please see here), in the form of two joined claims (Bille and Ogale). The claimants allege that the respondents – Royal Dutch Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary – are liable in the tort of negligence for widespread and ongoing environmental harm and pollution.

Kingsley Napley partner, Sophie Kemp said:

This is a landmark decision and another major step forward for those seeking accountability and access to justice for corporate human rights abuses both in the UK and internationally.

As noted by Carlos Lopez, Senior Legal Advisor at the ICJ:

The emphasis of the Supreme Court on the relevance of evidence from internal company documents is of utmost importance for the proper assessment of whether the parent company intervened, advised or controlled the relevant activities of its subsidiary that caused harm, including notably human rights abuses and environmental destruction.”

Mark Dearn, Director of CORE, considers:

It’s now crucial that governments step up to the plate to create new corporate accountability laws so that businesses know exactly what is expected of them.”  

The Kingsley Napley team assisted CORE and the ICJ to draw from their collective experience in international business and human rights standards. In their written submissions the charities brought relevant comparative and international jurisprudence in tort law and corporate accountability to bear at the Supreme Court regarding the circumstances whereby a home-domiciled parent company may be responsible for the actions or omissions of its subsidiaries, or related parties, abroad. The clients’ submissions are referred to in the UK Supreme Court’s judgment (see https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2018-0068.html).

The Kingsley Napley team acting for CORE and the ICJ comprised Sophie Kemp (Partner), Nick De Mulder (Associate), Nick Wrightson (Senior Associate) and Bianca Patulea (Paralegal).

The expert counsel team was Timothy Otty QC (Blackstone Chambers), Robert McCorquodale (Brick Court Chambers), Tim Johnston (Brick Court Chambers), George Molyneaux (Blackstone Chambers), Lise Smit (BIICL). 

The clients’ press release is available here.

ENDS

For press enquiries, please contact Bell Yard Communications: BellYard@bell-yard.com

Notes to Editors

Kingsley Napley is a law firm providing advice to individuals and businesses in the following areas: employment law, private client advisory, public law, criminal defence litigation, corporate and commercial, dispute resolution, family law, medical negligence, regulatory, real estate, construction and immigration. It ranked 73 in The Lawyer’s Top 200 UK Law Firms 2020 list by revenue and was the top law firm for the last three years in The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies to Work for list, most recently ranked 26th in 2020.

For more information about Kingsley Napley, please visit www.kingsleynapley.co.uk.

 

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