By Bart H. Meijer
AMSTERDAM, Jan 29 (Reuters) - A Dutch appeals court on Friday will decide whether Royal Dutch Shell is responsible for damage caused by oil spills in the Niger Delta, in a ruling which could pave the way for more cases against the energy company.
A lower court in The Hague in 2013 said Shell's Nigerian subsidiary SPDC was responsible for a case of oil pollution and ordered it to pay damages to a local farmer.
The court dismissed four other complaints against Shell's parent company, but the verdict was seen by legal experts as a way for others to sue in the Netherlands.
A judge will begin reading the verdict at 1100 local time (1000 GMT).
The case was brought in 2008 by farmers and campaign group Friends of the Earth, seeking reparations for lost income from contaminated land and waterways in the Niger Delta region, the heart of the Nigerian oil industry.
Both sides launched appeals in 2013, as the complainants sought to also hold Shell's parent company responsible for the spills, while Shell said neither it nor subsidiary SPDC was responsible as they were the result of sabotage, not bad maintenance.
The appeals case took almost eight years as both sides fought over access to information and matters of jurisdiction.
No compensation has yet been paid pending the appeals process.
The spills concerned were between 2004 and 2007, but pollution from leaking oil pipelines remains a major problem in the Niger Delta.
Shell said almost all spills reported there are the result of sabotage.
The company settled a similar case in a British court in 2015, agreeing to pay 70 million euros to members of the Niger Delta Bodo community, who held it responsible for spilling the equivalent of 500,000 barrels of oil in 2008.
($1 = 0.8242 euros) (Reporting by Bart Meijer; Editing by Anthony Deutsch)
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