Greenpeace has been sued many, many times
While you may not have heard of it before, suits against (and by) Greenpeace and other environmental (and other protest) organisations are a relatively common strategy. While many of the top hits in a Google search for "Greenpeace sued" link to the Shell case because it's topical, in my feed, there are plenty of others just on the first page (YMMV).
What are the legal basis for such suits?
There are a whole lot of torts that have potentially been committed by Greenpeace in direct action protests that may or may not have analogous crimes. There have also been suits bought for defamation and trademark or copyright violations.
For the current case, the unlawful boarding of Shell's platform may have involved:
- trespass to goods
- tortious interference
Shell is seeking an injunction preventing Greenpeace from interfering with their facilities in the future, which, if breached, would be the crime of contempt of court.
They are also seeking damages for the cost of dealing with the occupation. This will include their immediate costs in dealing with the protesters at the time, plus checking for and repairing any damage they may have caused. However, by far the most significant component is lost production: a deep-sea well can produce up to 100,000 barrels of oil a day. At $80/barrel less production costs of (generously) $20/barrel, Shell can argue that each day's delay delay in production caused by the protest has an economic cost of $6 million.