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Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co.

March 4, 2008

ESTHER KIOBEL, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
ROYAL DUTCH PETROLEUM CO., ET AL., DEFENDANTS.
KEN WIWA, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
SHELL PETROLEUM DEVELOPMENT COMPANY OF NIGERIA LIMITED, DEFENDANT.



OPINION AND ORDER

KIMBA M. WOOD, U.S.D.J.

The two above-captioned cases are part of a set of four related actions involving allegations of human rights violations in Nigeria during the 1990s. Currently before the Court are (1) Defendant Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited's ("SPDC") Motion to Dismiss for Lack of Personal Jurisdiction, filed in both cases, and (2) objections to Magistrate Judge Henry B. Pitman's February 26, 2007 Order granting SPDC's Motion to Preclude Plaintiffs from Taking Further Jurisdictional Discovery, filed by Plaintiffs in Wiwa, et al. v. Shell Petroleum Development Co. ("Wiwa III"). For the reasons set forth below, SPDC's Motion to Dismiss is granted in both cases. In granting the Motion to Dismiss, the Court also concludes that additional jurisdictional discovery is unwarranted in either case. The Court therefore need not consider the Wiwa III Plaintiffs' objections to Magistrate Judge Pitman's February 26, 2007 Order.

BACKGROUND

I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND

A more detailed description of the facts underlying these cases is provided in the Court's previous orders in these and their related actions, familiarity with which is presumed. See, e.g., Kiobel, et al. v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., et al., 456 F. Supp. 2d 457 (S.D.N.Y. 2006); Wiwa, et al. v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., et al., No. 96 Civ. 8386, 2002 WL 319887 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 28, 2002).

SPDC is a foreign corporation organized under the laws of Nigeria, with corporate headquarters located in Lagos, Nigeria. (Kiobel Amended Compl. ¶ 20; Wiwa III Compl. ¶ 17.) SPDC is primarily engaged in the business of exploring for, producing, and selling energy products derived from Nigerian oil and natural gas. (Kiobel Amended Compl. ¶ 22; Wiwa III Compl. ¶ 18.) During the 1990s, SPDC, along with its affiliates, engaged in oil exploration and development activities in the Ogoni region of southern Nigeria.

Plaintiffs are a group of individuals, who along with their decedents, actively protested SPDC's oil exploration and development activities in the Ogoni region. Plaintiffs allege that their lawful protests were violently suppressed by agents of the Nigerian government either in conspiracy with SPDC and their affiliates, or at SPDC's own request. Plaintiffs bring their respective actions alleging violations of international, federal, and state law in connection with these acts of violence and purported human rights abuses.

II. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Kiobel and Wiwa III are the most recent of four related cases, all seeking similar damages and relief for the alleged human rights violations perpetrated against residents of the Ogoni region of Nigeria during the 1990s. The first two of these related actions, Wiwa, et al. v. Royal Dutch Petroleum Co., et al. ("Wiwa I") and Wiwa, et al. v. Anderson ("Wiwa II"), were filed on November 6, 1996 and March 5, 2001, respectively.*fn1

Plaintiffs in Kiobel filed their original Complaint on September 20, 2002, and their Amended Complaint on May 17, 2004. Plaintiffs in Wiwa III filed their Complaint on April 6, 2004.

SPDC is named as a defendant only in the Kiobel Amended Complaint and in the Wiwa III Complaint.

Pretrial proceedings in all four related actions have been largely coordinated. In particular, the parties in these related cases have for the most part shared discovery. As such, Plaintiffs in Kiobel and Wiwa III have access to the extensive discovery taken in Wiwa I and Wiwa II over the past ten years. (Kiobel Pretrial Conference, Oct. 18, 2002; Joint Letter from Wiwa III Parties 1, Aug. 18, 2004.) This includes discovery taken from SPDC. (Def.'s Mem. Law. Supp. Mot. to Dismiss 3-4 nn.6&7.)

By Scheduling Order, dated December 28, 2006, Magistrate Judge Pitman directed SPDC to file any Rule 12 motion it sought to submit along with a "separate motion addressing the issue of discovery on the question of personal jurisdiction." In accordance with this Scheduling Order, SPDC moved, pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(2), to dismiss the claims filed against it for lack of personal jurisdiction on January 30, 2007 ("Motion to Dismiss").*fn2 In a separate motion, dated January 31, 2007, SPDC also moved, pursuant to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26(b)(2)(C)(ii) and (c)(1), to preclude the taking of further jurisdictional discovery from SPDC ("Motion to Preclude"). The Motion to Dismiss and the Motion to Preclude were filed in both Kiobel and Wiwa III.

On February 22, 2007, Magistrate Judge Pitman heard oral argument on the Motion to Preclude. By Order dated February 26, 2007, he granted SPDC's Motion to Preclude "for the reasons stated on the record in open court" during oral argument. Although this order was originally entered in both cases, it was subsequently modified to bind only the Wiwa III parties.*fn3 The Plaintiffs in Wiwa III then filed timely written objections to the February 26, 2007 Order.

The Court now addresses the pending Motion to Dismiss,*fn4 and the Wiwa III Plaintiffs' objections to Magistrate Judge Pitman's February 26, 2007 Order.

DISCUSSION

This Order addresses (1) SPDC's Motion to Dismiss, filed in Kiobel and Wiwa III, and (2) the Wiwa III Plaintiffs' objections to Magistrate Judge Pitman's February 27, 2007 Order granting SPDC's Motion to Preclude.

I. SPDC'S MOTION TO DISMISS FOR LACK OF ...


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