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Debevoise acts opposite Leigh Day on another pollution claim against Shell

Debevoise & Plimpton co-managing partner Lord Peter Goldsmith has secured a victory for Shell in the High Court as a judge barred 40,000 villagers from the Niger Delta from claims against the oil giant over decades of oil spills.

Mr Justice Fraser barred the claimants from redressing against the energy giant in the English courts, deciding Shell has no legal responsibility for its Nigerian subsidiary, the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria. The court decided the claim had no further prospect of success.

The Nigerians, represented by Leigh Day partners Daniel Leader and Martyn Day, will take the verdict to the Court of Appeal and expect it to be heard in the next six to ten months.

Leader said: ‘I am confident this will be overturned on appeal. This judgment is inconsistent with recent decisions of other European courts.’

‘It is our view that the judgment failed to consider critical evidence which shows the decisive direction and control Royal Dutch Shell exercises over its Nigerian subsidiary,’ he added.

He said that the early stage litigation asked Shell to clean up and create community projects to minimise the long term impact on the population, however damages had not been quantified.

Goldsmith (pictured) acted alongside former Debevoise partner Sophie Lamb who is now at Latham & Watkins, while Jones Day instructed Richard Hermer QC and Edward Craven of Matrix Chambers and Marie Kinsler of 2 Temple Gardens.

In January 2015, Day and Leader secured a substantial environmental settlement with Shell, then advised by Hogan Lovells, to pay £55m to an African community of 15,600 Nigerian fishermen after a three-year legal battle over two oil spills. The deal marked the first time the Anglo-Dutch energy giant was set to compensate individuals affected by oil spills in the region.