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How our work has developed the law

The silicosis litigation is consonant with a line of cases brought by Leigh Day over the past 20 years, the objective of which has been to hold multinational companies to account, legally, for harm done in and around their overseas developing country operations.

Richard Meeran is the Leigh Day partner involved in the silicosis litigation.

Since 1993, Richard has pioneered litigation against multinational head office parent companies arising from operations in developing countries.  His cases (which were successful) include the following:

1995-1997 Ngcobo v Thor Chemicals Holdings Ltd & Desmond Cowley 1997-2000 Sithole v Thor Chemicals Holdings Ltd & Desmond Cowley

The above claims were brought in England by South African workers poisoned by mercury at a factory in KwaZulu-Natal. Under pressure from the UK Health & Safety Executive over high levels of mercury in it Margate factory workforce, Thor transferred its operations lock stock and barrel to KZN where it continued operating in an even more dangerous manner. Two workers died of mercury poisoning and many were seriously injured.  The claims were settled in 1997 and 2000. Judgments here and here.

1997-2000 - Lubbe v Cape Plc 

The claim was brought by 7,500 South African asbestos miners who sued Cape plc in the UK courts.

Cape plc contested jurisdiction and the case had to go all the way to the House of Lords before the claimants were given the go-ahead to proceed. The South African government  intervened on the claimants’ behalf stating that ‘the allegations against Cape did not take place in a legitimate legal system, and the new SA government cannot afford to determine every wrong of the old regime’.The case was settled in 2003.

2009-2011 Guerrero v Monterrico Metals plc

In June 2009, proceedings were commenced against a UK parent company Monterrico Metals plc in the English High Court on behalf of 33 indigenous Peruvians who were allegedly tortured and mistreated at Monterrico’s Rio Blanco mine in August 2005 following an environmental protest.

A worldwide freezing injunction was successfully obtained to prevent Monterrico from disposing of assets.

In July 2011 the proceedings were settled on confidential terms, by a payment of costs and compensation, without admission of liability.

This series of cases significantly developed English law relating to multinational liability and led to a judgment confirming the principle of a parent company duty of care and the circumstances in which this may arise. Judgement here

2007-2011 Chandler v Cape plc

Leigh Day brought a case on behalf of Mr Chandler who had contracted asbestosis whilst working at Cape plc’s subsidiary Cape Building Products Limited.

This was the first case of its kind where a parent company was held responsible for the unsafe working conditions resulting in asbestos exposure operated at a site owned by its subsidiary.

The claimant was able to rely on the previous Thor and Cape plc cases to demonstrate that a parent company may owe a duty of care to the employees of its subsidiaries.

The judgment set a new legal precedent for holding parent companies to account. Judgment here

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