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BP lawsuit (re Colombia)

In 2005, a group of Colombian farmers instituted proceedings in UK Court against BP Exploration Company. They allege that the construction of an oil pipeline caused severe environmental damage to their lands. In 2006, most of the farmers and BP reached an out of court settlement. The remaining plaintiffs went to trial. In 2016, the UK court dismissed the lawsuit, ruling plaintiffs failed to show sufficient environmental damage is attributable to the oil pipeline.

 

Para la versión en español de este perfil de las demandas judiciales, haga clic acá.

In July 2005 a group of Colombian farmers instituted proceedings in the English High Court against BP Exploration Company (Colombia) alleging that the construction of an oil pipeline by OCENSA (a consortium led by BP) caused severe environmental damage to their lands.  In particular, the farmers claimed that the pipeline cut across key water sources which resulted in soil erosion, spoiled crops and fish ponds being starved of water.  Further, they alleged that BP, while not directly involved, benefited from the activities of paramilitaries employed to guard the pipeline.  The farmers argued that the paramilitaries intimidated the local population, obstructed farming and suppressed legitimate opposition to the pipeline.  The farmers claimed that the combined effect of these factors was the destruction of their way of life leading to destitution for them and their families.  The farmers asked for £15 million in compensation.

BP argued it had already made compensatory payments to the farmers and that, in any event, any lawsuit against BP should be in Colombia.  Lawyers for the farmers countered that many had not received payments and those that had, had not received adequate payments.  Many farmers claimed they were forced to sign agreements that they could not understand.  Further, the plaintiffs argued it was necessary to bring proceedings in London because Colombian lawyers who had become involved in the case had been harassed and threatened.

In June 2006 BP and the farmers met for mediation in Bogotá.  On 22 July 2006 the parties announced that a settlement had been reached.  The parties did not disclose the terms and amounts paid.  However, in a joint statement they did announce that BP, without admitting liability, had agreed to establish an Environmental and Social Improvement Trust Fund for the benefit of the farmers, together with a programme of workshops dealing with environmental management and business development.  According to press reports, the amount paid by BP was not thought to be as high as the £15 million originally claimed, but was believed to run to several million pounds.

In December 2008, Particulars of Claim were filed with the English High Court by a Colombian farmer living in the Zaragoza-Caceri region of Colombia claiming he suffered serious environmental damage to his land as a result of the construction of the OCENSA pipeline.  This claimant is part of a group litigation (the group litigation order was issued on 24 September 2008), and his claims are representative of the claims of the group.  This group of individuals was not part of the 2006 settlement with BP.  The trial started in London in October 2014. 

On 27 July 2016, the UK High Court of Justice dismissed the lawsuit, ruling that the plaintiffs failed to provide sufficient evidence to prove the damage attributable to the Ocensa pipeline works.

- Colombia Farmers Take BP to Court Over Oil Pipeline, Brianna Lee, International Business Times, 17 Oct 2014
- [ES] English lawyers to take oil pipeline to London ("Abogados ingleses llevarán caso de oleoducto a Londres"), Juan Guillermo Duque, el Colombiano, 30 abril 2013
- [ES] Colombian farmers sue British Petroleum for negligence ("Agricultores colombianos demandan a la British Petroleum - BP por negligencia"), Prensa Rural, 12 enero 2011
- BP pays out millions to Colombian Farmers, Robert Verkaik, Independent [UK], 22 Jul 2006

- Farmers 'terrified out of their homes' to sue BP for £15m, Robert Verkaik, Independent [UK], 18 Jun 2005

- 'What use am I to anyone dead?', Jeremy Lennard, Guardian [UK], 18 Dec 2002

- [PDF] BP fails to compensate landowners in Colombia for land taken for the OCENSA pipeline, From Chapter 9 of ‘Some Common Concerns’, by Greg Muttitt & James Marriott, Oct 2002, Excerpted Jun 2003

- BP: BP Colombia

- Leigh, Day & Co. [plaintiffs’ counsel]: Leigh Day return to Colombia to meet more farmers, 18 Mar 2008
- Leigh, Day & Co.: Successful mediation result for Colombian Farmers, 24 Jul 2006

- [PDF] Flores v BP Exploration Company Ltd - Particulars of Claim, 1 Dec 2008

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