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Okpabi: Supreme Court rules that Nigerian communities can sue Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary in England

Okpabi and others (Appellants) v Royal Dutch Shell Plc and another (Respondents) [2021] UKSC 3, 12 February 2021.

The UK Supreme Court has ruled that the English courts have jurisdiction to hear a claim by over 40,000 Nigerian individuals against a UK-domiciled parent company and its Nigerian subsidiary in relation to adverse environmental and human rights impacts allegedly caused by the subsidiary. This much-anticipated judgment follows the Supreme Court’s landmark 2019 decision in Lungowe v Vedanta Resources plc., which confirmed the legal test that a claimant must satisfy in order to establish a duty of care owed to them by a parent company in relation to the activities of its subsidiary. This new decision also provides an insight into the factors and circumstances which may give rise to such a duty of care and liability for a breach thereof.  

Here we discuss the most salient points from the decision, what it means for the environmental and human rights policies and practices of British multinational companies, as well as the litigation strategies of potential claimants motivated to seek access to judicial remedies against multinationals in the UK.