The top court determined that it was too late for Nigerian claimants to file a lawsuit against Shell affiliates regarding an offshore oil leak in 2011.
The lawsuit was just one of several legal conflicts Shell has had with citizens of Nigeria’s oil-producing Niger Delta in London courts; the area is plagued by pollution, conflict, and corruption tied to the oil and gas business, according to Reuters.
There were claims that 40,000 barrels of crude oil, around 120 kilometers off the coast of Nigeria’s Niger Delta, leaked when a vessel was loaded at Shell’s Bonga oilfield in December 2011.
According to Reuters, Shell refuted the claims and said that the Bonga spill was scattered offshore and had no negative effects on the beach.
Asserting that the ensuing oil slick poisoned their lands and waterways, ruining farming, fishing, drinking water, mangrove forests, and religious shrines, a collection of 27,800 people and 457 towns has made multiple attempts to sue Shell.
However, a panel of five justices on the Supreme Court unanimously affirmed decisions by two lower courts that concluded the plaintiffs had filed their case after the six-year legal time had passed.
The claimants’ attorneys had contended that the pollution’s continuous effects constituted a “continuing nuisance,” a category of civil tort, which would have rendered the deadline irrelevant.
“The Supreme Court disapproves of the claimants’ argument. In this case, there was no persistent annoyance, Justice Andrew Burrows ruled.
Even though the Supreme Court case had two Nigerians as appellants, the report said that the judgment will also apply to the thousands of other claims.
Shell claimed that the Supreme Court decision has ended all legal claims over the spill in English courts.
Despite being extremely unfortunate, the 2011 Bonga spill was quickly contained and cleaned up offshore, according to a Shell representative.
An email seeking comment from a lawyer for the Nigerian appellants did not receive a response right away.