A US class action firm which entered the UK market to something of a fanfare earlier this year says it is running ‘one of the largest claims in British legal history’.

SPG Law is seeking compensation for victims of an environmental disaster in Brazil. Around 240,000 claimants have joined the group action, seeking £5bn from mining company BHP Billiton. The claimants are all alleged victims of the 2015 Samarco dam collapse in Mariana, which was reported to have killed 19 people and displaced around 700.

SPG Law, a partnership between US and UK lawyers, has filed a complaint in the Liverpool High Court. It is believed the complaint was filed in English courts as claimants will have more chance of obtaining a quicker determination in England and Wales than Brazil. The case was also filed in the UK because BHP is a UK-registered company, SPG said.

Multiple claims have been filed in Brazil against BHP subsidiaries but this is the first claim to target the parent company. 

Tom Goodhead, partner at SPG Law, said the firm chose to litigate the case in Liverpool not only because it is based in the city but also because it was keen to show other cities besides London can be an attractive forum for dispute resolution.

Among the claimants are Brazilian municipalities, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mariana and members of the Krenak indigenous community. Around 10,000 fisherman who had their livelihoods impacted are also among the claimants.

Goodhead added: ‘Three years on from the tragedy, nearly a million Brazilian citizens affected by the disaster have either not been compensated at all or have received low financial settlements. The process of compensation has so far been in the hands of the defendants. This is about putting the claimants in control.’

SPG will work on a no-win no-fee basis, taking a maximum of 30% of any compensation they are able to secure for the plaintiffs, according to Goodhead. It will not be levied in the case of the indigenous community.

In September, the Gazette reported that US-based class action specialist Sanders Phillips Grossman was to launch the new British firm, in Liverpool. In the US, Sanders Phillips Grossman has won over $1bn for its clients against major corporations including VW, Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson.

BHP Billiton has been approached for comment.