In the case of Jalla the Court considered whether the appellants had a viable action for continuing nuisance which could defeat the Respondent’s limitation Defence.

The Respondents were responsible for an oil spill off the coast of Nigeria in December 2011. The oil was pumped into the sea and the spill lasted for 5 to 6 hours, after which the pipeline was switched off, stopping the leak. It was found that the oil washed onto the coastline within the following weeks (early 2012), placing the expiry of limitation early in 2018. Critically, an action was not instigated by relevant parties until limitation had expired. The Appellants attempted to circumvent this by claiming that every day the oil remained on their land gave rise to a fresh cause of action. The Judge at the first instance rejected this argument. He held that the damage had taken place in a matter of weeks after the initial spill in 2011 and the claims could not be brought as continuing nuisance. The Court of Appeal agreed with the Judge’s decision.

The Court relied heavily upon the description of continued nuisance by Lindley LJ in Hull v Chard Union [1894] 1 Ch 293. A continuing cause of action is "a cause of action which arises from the repetition of acts or omissions of the same kind as that for which the action was brought." It was clear to the Court here that the oil spill had been a one off event, which had been rectified within 6 hours of its occurrence. The cause of action arose when the oil first hit the shores. The continuing damage could not be used to extend the cause of action – it would place too much responsibility upon the Respondent not only to stop the nuisance but to actively start repairing the damage. To consider the position otherwise would expose the Respondent to potential litigation in fifty years’ time.

The principles of this claim can be applied to a domestic oil spill, which causes damage to a neighbouring property. The level of damage may be ongoing for several years if not properly cleaned up but that will not extend the principles of limitation. The onus remains upon the neighbour to issue his claim within 6 years of the spill and/ or the oil reaching his land (if different). Continued damage caused by the oil simply being on his land thereafter will not extend limitation.


If you would like to discuss this topic in more detail, please contact Daisy McConnell.



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