NEW YORK - A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday reinstated a
lawsuit against a Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSB.LN) unit over the 1995
deaths of Nigerian activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and others.
The U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a district court's
March 2008 ruling dismissing a case against Shell Petroleum Development
Co. of Nigeria and remanded it to the lower court to reconsider its
ruling that it lacked jurisdiction to hear the case.
"The district court is in the best position to examine, evaluate,
and determine the relevance of the documents at issue and to decide
whether continuing discovery in the related cases has now been
sufficient for the appellants to adequately allege personal
jurisdiction over SPDC, to show that the appellants are sufficiently
unlikely to be able to establish jurisdiction, so as to justify
dismissal once more or to allow further jurisdictional discovery," the
appellate panel found.
The lawsuit, which was brought by family members and surviving
activists, had alleged the Shell unit was complicit in the 1995 torture
and deaths of Saro-Wiwa and other Nigerian activists.
They had argued on appeal that the district court didn't provide
them sufficient opportunity to conduct discovery necessary to
demonstrate the court had jurisdiction over the Nigerian unit.
"This is yet another victory in the plaintiffs' long struggle for
justice," said Judith Brown Chomsky, a lawyer with the Center for
Constitutional Rights, which is representing Saro-Wiwa's son and others
in the matter.
Its parent, Royal Dutch Shell, is facing a separate lawsuit over
the deaths of Saro-Wiwa and others in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.
The company has denied the allegations.
A pretrial conference scheduled for Wednesday in the Royal Dutch
Shell case was postponed and no new date was scheduled. No reason was
given for the postponement.
Shell did not immediately respond to a request for comment.