Simmons & Simmons has been handed a major victory by the Court of Appeal, which ruled that oil company Shell could pursue a claim against French oil group Total for loss of profits spiralling out of the Buncefield disaster.
The court also upheld an earlier High Court ruling that found Total should be held vicariously liable for the explosion rather than share liabilities with Chevron. The court found the explosion was caused by the negligence of a Total employee and that Total’s head office staff had contributed to the explosion by failing to put in place an adequate system for preventing the overfilling of the fuel tanks that exploded (20 March 2009).
The first tranche of the dispute centred on whether the beneficial owners rather than the legal owners of an adjacent site to Buncefield could sue Total for loss of profits following the explosion.
Lord Justices Waller, Longmore and Richards ruled that the companies that were beneficial owners of the land, a group led by Shell, could pursue damages of more than £100m from Total.
Simmons & Simmons partner Philip Vaughan instructed Laurence Rabinowitz QC of One Essex Court for Shell.
Total was represented by One Essex Court’s Tony Grabiner QC who was instructed by Davies Arnold Cooper partner Nick Young.
Pinsent Masons partner Simon Joyston-Bechal instructed 4 New Square’s Justin Fenwick for the legal owners of the site, West London Pipeline and Storage Ltd.
Herbert Smith partner Ted Greeno instructed Brick Court’s Jonathan Sumption QC for Chevron.
Shell UK (appellant): Simmons and Simmons partner Philip Vaughan instructed One Essex Court’s Laurence Rabinowitz QC, Maitland Chambers’ Edwin Johnson QC and Fountain Court’s Richard Handyside QC
Total UK: Davies Arnold Cooper partner Nick Young instructed One Essex Court’s Tony Grabiner QC, 7 King’s Bench Walk Christopher Butcher QC, Brick Court’s Alan Maclean QC, and Crown Office Chambers Alexander Antelme
West London Pipeline and Storage Ltd: Pinsent Masons partner Simon Joyston-Bechal instructed 4 New Square’s Justin Fenwick QC and Paul Sutherland
Chevron Ltd: Herbert Smith partners Ted Greeno and Caroline Kehoe instructed Brick Court’s Jonathan Sumption QC and Michael Bools