Representatives of Shell Oil appeared in court in the Netherlands on Thursday to face accusations the company has polluted villages in Nigeria.
The case is being brought by four Nigerian farmers and the Dutch branch of the Friends of the Earth environmental group.
The BBC's reports that if the case is successful it could pave the way for thousands of other compensation claims.
Shell insists it has been unable to clean up the spills due to insecurity. The Anglo-Dutch company also says that more than half of the leaks in the Niger Delta region are caused by theft and sabotage.
It is the first time a Dutch multinational has been taken to a civil court in the Netherlands in connection with damage caused abroad.
The BBC reports the case is linked to spills in Goi, Ogoniland; Oruma in Bayelsa State and another in
Ikot Ada Udo, Akwa Ibom State.
A ruling is expected within six weeks to three months.
The company has accepted responsibility for two specific spills in the Ogoniland area of the Niger Delta
in 2008, saying it would settle the case under Nigerian law.