Lawyers for 200,000 claimants from a Brazilian dam disaster say they will appeal the High Court’s decision not to proceed with the case.
Mr Justice Turner this week ruled that the court should refuse to accept jurisdiction almost five years to the day since the dam burst, killing 19 people and destroying villages and communities.
The judge said the case was too unwieldly and practically unworkable, and if allowed to proceed would have a ‘deleterious impact’ upon the scarce resources of the English courts.
Lawyers say the claimants insist that the dual-listed Anglo-Australian defendant BHP should face action in England where the company is headquartered. They also stress that redress achieved in Brazil has been ‘entirely inadequate’ and reparations offered by BHP ‘only exist on paper’ and say the judgment is ‘fundamentally flawed’.
Tom Goodhead, managing partner at claimant firm PGMBM, on behalf of the claimants, said: ‘BHP have succeeded, once again, in delaying the provision of full redress for the victims of the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history. ‘Elements of the judgment have no proper basis in both English and European law, such that we are overwhelmingly confident that it will be overturned.'
The firm has also enlisted the support of Duarte Junior, mayor of Mariana where the disaster occurred, in trying to secure compensation in England.
Junior said: ‘For five long years we have been frustrated, trying to rebuild our lives and communities in the face of the companies who are responsible for the disaster. Compensation so far has been completely inadequate and every day we still live with the effects of what happened.
‘This case represents the hopes and the rights of every individual in Mariana and beyond. BHP did not respect our rights in Brazil. This case in England should force them to acknowledge our rights now.’
The mammoth case, the biggest group litigation ever launched in England and Wales, is worth an estimated £5bn in damages. Claimants include more than 200,000 individuals, 25 Brazilian municipal governments, 530 businesses, a Catholic archdiocese and members of the Krenak indigenous community.