BHP damages case grows to 700,000 claimants seeking up to £36bn

A compensation case in opposition to BHP over a 2015 mining catastrophe in Brazil has expanded to 700,000 claimants in search of damages of as much as £36bn, making it the most important opt-in class motion lawsuit ever introduced within the UK.

The case pertains to the collapse of the Fundão tailings dam on the Samarco Mariana mine complicated within the state of Minas Gerais, which killed 19 folks and launched 40mn cubic metres of tailings that polluted a whole lot of kilometres of waterways. The Brazilian claimants are in search of compensation for alleged injury to their houses and livelihoods.

“The quantity of people that have signed up displays the insecurity within the present redress mechanisms,” stated Tom Goodhead, chief govt of Pogust Goodhead, a legislation agency representing the claimants. “We consider it’s the greatest on the planet by the variety of shoppers who’ve opted in.”

The claimants’ attorneys, which embody Pogust Goodhead within the UK in addition to native attorneys in Brazil, stand to earn as a lot as 30 per cent of the settlement if their case is profitable.

Goodhead stated the extra claimants in Brazil had been signed up by native attorneys. “It runs like a small army operation, we have a look at each city, village and metropolis . . . Each consumer in our case has a lawyer in Brazil, in addition to a lawyer in England.”

The legislation agency’s new estimate for max potential damages of £36bn, revealed on Wednesday, is predicated on an estimate of about £17bn in damages plus 12 per cent curiosity per 12 months because the accident. In official court docket paperwork, a lot of the damages haven’t but been absolutely quantified.

A procedural listening to will probably be held on the finish of this month, with a trial scheduled to begin in April 2024 that can initially decide whether or not or not BHP has legal responsibility. If BHP is discovered to be liable, a subsequent ruling on the quantity of the compensation due might take a number of years.

“BHP will proceed to defend the UK group motion and denies the claims of their entirety,” the corporate stated in an announcement.

“BHP’s view stays that this motion is pointless because it duplicates issues already lined by the present and ongoing work of the Renova Basis (beneath the supervision of the Brazilian courts) and different authorized proceedings in Brazil,” it stated.

Whereas a separate authorized case over compensation for the catastrophe is beneath approach in Brazil, the UK Court docket of Enchantment dominated final 12 months that there was “comparatively restricted” overlap between the 2 circumstances.

There are sensible questions on how such litigation might be managed given the hundreds of claimants who’ve been signed up.

Most of the largest lawsuits at the moment within the English courts are “opt-out”, that are seen as simpler to handle as they’re introduced by a category consultant and shoppers are routinely enrolled until they particularly select to not be. They embody the case introduced by Walter Merricks, the previous UK monetary ombudsman who’s representing 46mn folks in a £10bn lawsuit in opposition to Mastercard.

The venture the place the tailings dam collapsed was owned and operated by Samarco, a Brazilian firm collectively owned by Vale and BHP. On the time of the accident, BHP was dual-listed in London and in Sydney.

BHP and Vale arrange the Renova Basis in 2016 to hold out restore and compensation work for these affected by the tailings dam collapse. The inspiration has spent practically $6bn up to now, together with $2.6bn paid in indemnities and monetary help to 410,000 folks.

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