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17 Jun 2016

John Hyde, Law Society Gazette (UK)

Court finds Leigh Day breached duty of care to Trafigura claimant

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The High Court has ruled that national firm Leigh Day breached a contract and its duty of care by failing to protect a multi-million-pound fund for victims of a discharge of chemical waste in Ivory Coast.

The firm had secured a £30m settlement in September 2009 from global energy company Trafigura, with the settlement paid into an Ivorian bank nominated by Leigh Day...

A third-party organisation made a fraudulent claim against the funds which was upheld in the Ivorian Supreme Court, a decision the firm admitted was 'borne of corruption'. By March 2010, Leigh Day had made an agreement with the organisation for 23,000 of the victims to be paid their share of the settlement sum, leaving 6,624 claimants with nothing...

...[T]he court ruled Leigh Day did not take proper steps to protect the settlement sum from being acquired dishonestly by third parties making claims to it...

...[A] Leigh Day spokesperson said: ‘We are entirely sympathetic with the position the claimant...

‘We fought hard to gain compensation for all 30,000 of our clients and we were devastated when some of the monies were misappropriated. We did our damnedest to recover the monies resulting in the great majority of our clients having received their compensation.

...[H]owever we believe the judgment of Mr Justice Smith looks at what happened through the prism of hindsight.’

Part of the following timelines

Côte d’Ivoire : 10 ans après le déversement, les victimes ignorent encore tous les impacts des déchets toxiques

Trafigura lawsuit (re hazardous waste disposal in Côte d’Ivoire, filed in UK)