Friday 16 February 2018

UK: England and Wales: parent company liability in tort for harm caused by subsidiaries

The Court of Appeal gave judgment earlier this week in Ogale Community & Ors v Royal Dutch Shell Plc & Anor [2018] EWCA Civ 191 (on appeal from [2017] EWHC 89 (TCC); [2017] WLR(D) 52). At issue was the potential liability in tort of a parent company - Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDS) - for the environmental damage caused by leaks of oil from pipelines and infrastructure in the Niger Delta, stemming from the operations of a subsidiary company.

It was argued that RDS owed the Nigerian claimants a duty of care because (1) it controlled the pipeline operations in Nigeria from which the leaks occurred, or (2) it had assumed direct responsibility to protect the claimants from the damage caused by the leaks. At first instance it was held that there was no arguable case that a duty of care arose. This finding - albeit with criticism of the way in which the trial judge had reached it - was upheld by a majority in the Court of Appeal (Chancellor and Simon LJ; Sales LJ dissenting).

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