Dutch courts are not authorised to hear BP damages claim, judges say

Statue of justice.Photo: Depositphotos.com

A class action claim brought by Dutch shareholders association VEB against British Petroleum cannot be heard in a Dutch court, Amsterdam’s appeal court has ruled.

The appeal court said that simply owing a Dutch investment account is not enough to justify a Dutch court case, and further links between claimant and London-based BP would be needed.

The VEB wants to take BP to court over statements made by the company both before and after the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster in 2010. The organisation says BP has not told the truth about the company’s safety and maintenance programmes before the massive leak or about the size of the disaster. In the weeks after, BP’s share price plunged.




Other claims against BP are underway in the US and Canada but the Dutch case is the only one in Europe.

Implications

The Financieele Dagblad says the ruling could have implications for the class action suit launched by the VEB against Volkswagen in connection with the emissions scandal. Other cases are also pending, including one brought by a foundation of claimants against Brazilian oil giant Petrobras.

Legislation which would increase the options for class action cases in the Netherlands is currently waiting to go through parliament.

Not unlimited

Lawyer Jeroen Kortmann, who defended BP in the case, told the FD that the ruling is of major importance. ‘Both the lower and the appeal courts have said that the Dutch court’s international role is not unlimited,’ he said.

VEB director Paul Koster said in a statement it is crucial that Dutch investors can make a damages claim against a foreign firm. ‘High legal fees abroad… make it virtually impossible for investors to recover their damages,’ he said.

The organisation is considering a further appeal to the High Court.