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Migrant workers get permission to appeal decision that their case against Dyson should not be heard in the English Courts

A group of migrant workers taking legal action against two Dyson UK companies and a Dyson Malaysian company over alleged forced labour and dangerous working and living conditions at a Malaysian factory have been given permission to appeal a High Court decision that the case should be heard in Malaysia and not England.

Posted on 26 June 2024

The workers’ claims relate to allegations of forced labour, false imprisonment, assault, battery, cruel and degrading treatment and exposure to extremely hazardous working conditions and abusive living conditions.

The appeal hearing, which will take place at the Court of Appeal on 26 or 27 November 2024 relates to a 2023 High Court decision after Dyson, which is now headquartered in Singapore, challenged the right of the English courts to hear the claims. The judgment was the first time the English courts had heard a challenge under forum non conveniens since the UK withdrawal from the EU meant that claimants lost the benefit of certain EU regulations that prevented defendants from challenging jurisdiction on forum non conveniens grounds.

The judge found that the case should be heard in Malaysia after the defendant Dyson companies, argued there was not a sufficient connection to the UK for it to be heard here. The Dyson companies also argued that since Malaysian law applies and the claimants will have access to justice in Malaysia, the claims should be heard there. Represented by international human rights law firm Leigh Day, the workers applied to appeal the High Court ruling, and permission to appeal has been granted

The legal claims are being brought by 23 migrant workers and the estate of one deceased migrant worker who worked at a factory in southern Malaysia where many Dyson products were made.

The workers say that the claims relate to the Dyson UK companies and should be heard in the English courts. The claimants also say that there is a substantial risk that they would not be able to access justice in the Malaysian courts.

The Nepalese and Bangladeshi workers were employed at the factory, which predominantly produced products for Dyson’s vacuum cleaner, lighting, haircare, heaters and fan ranges, for between three and nine years. The factory in the Johor region of Malaysia is operated by ATA Industrial and the Dyson companies deny in its response to the legal claim that it is responsible for any unlawful acts of ATA Industrial.

The former workers allege that the Dyson companies had known about the unlawful conditions since at least November 2019 when they were notified by whistleblower Andy Hall. Additionally, they argue that the exploitation and dangerous working conditions faced by migrant workers in Malaysian factories has been widely reported over the last 10 years and therefore is something that the Dyson companies should have been aware of. The Dyson companies dispute that they had knowledge of any wrongdoing since 2019, it says it investigated Mr Hall’s claims and determined they were not substantiated.

In their legal claim the workers argue that the Dyson companies were unjustly enriched as a result of the allegedly unlawful, exploitative and dangerous conditions at the factory. They argue that the Dyson companies are liable for the alleged breaches of their legal rights due to their knowledge of the alleged unlawful practices at the ATA factory and because of their assumption of responsibility through numerous public statements regarding their policies and procedures for detecting and preventing forced labour and exploitation in their supply chains.

The civil negligence claim is being brought against three Dyson companies within the Dyson Group: Dyson Technology Limited and Dyson Limited, based in Malmesbury, and Dyson Malaysia in Johor Bahru near to the ATA Industrial factory.

Leigh Day partner Oliver Holland said:

“Our clients are pleased to have been granted permission to appeal the decision that this case should not be heard in the UK.

“Since Brexit, the rules on where this type of case should be heard are less clear, but we believe it is vital the English High Court continues to hear claims against UK-based companies where harm has allegedly occurred in their overseas operations or in their supply chains to ensure access to justice for foreign claimants. We hope that this appeal will provide some clarity as to the post Brexit position on jurisdiction challenges under forum non conveniens.”

Oliver Holland
Corporate accountability Diesel emissions claims Group claims Modern slavery

Oliver Holland

Oliver specialises in international cases involving multinational corporations where environmental harm or human rights abuses have been alleged

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