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Lawsuit

9 Mar 2007

Author:
Business & Human Rights Resource Centre

Shell/BASF lawsuit (re Brazil)

Status: CLOSED

Incident date
March 9, 2007
Unknown
Community
Location of Filing: Brazil
Location of Incident: Brazil
Type of Litigation: Domestic

Companies

Royal Dutch Shell (Shell) Netherlands Oil, gas & coal

Sources

In 2007, the Brazilian Ministry of Labour and several workers' associations filed a lawsuit against Shell Brazil alleging that workers employed at and living near a pesticide plant, suffered severe health problems as a result of land and groundwater contamination. The parties agreed to a settlement, with lifelong health plans for each plaintiff, in 2013.

In March 2007, the Brazilian Ministry of Labour and several workers’ associations filed a lawsuit against Shell Brazil and BASF alleging that workers employed at and living near a pesticide plant, first owned by Shell and then by BASF, suffered cancers and other severe health problems as a result of land and groundwater contamination around the plant.  The claim, in Paulínia Labour Court, São Paulo, sought compensation for their illnesses and suffering as well as recovery of medical costs.

In January 2009, the court granted an interim injunction in favour of the plaintiffs, ordering Shell and BASF to pay for medical treatment of all of its former employees and their families.  On 19 August 2010, the court upheld its earlier injunction and ordered the defendants to pay R$64,500 (US$36,700) in compensation to each former worker and any of their children born during or after their service at the factory.  The defendants were also ordered to pay R$ 622 million (US$354 million), in collective compensation for “danos morais” (“moral damages”), into a Worker Protection Fund.  Both defendants appealed the decision.  BASF argued it was not responsible for the damage to workers’ health because it acquired the plant and the contaminated land after the pollution had occurred.  Shell denied any links between its operations and the harms to workers.  On appeal, the São Paulo Labour Court affirmed the lower court’s ruling.  In March 2012 Shell and BASF were in settlement talks to determine who should pay the Brazilian damages.  In February 2013 the São Paulo Labour Court reported that Shell and BASF had offered the plaintiffs a settlement -- lifelong health plans for each, worth about US$26 million.  The parties agreed to a final settlement in March 2013 worth about 620 million reais (US$316 million). 


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