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Cape/Gencor lawsuits (re So. Africa)

In 1997, a group of five South Africans suffering from asbestos-related disease brought suit against Cape PLC in UK Court seeking compensation for their injuries caused by Cape's asbestos mining and miling activity in South Africa. In 2003, Cape PLC and the plaintiffs reached an out of court settlement.

 

In 1997, a group of five South Africans suffering from asbestos-related disease (ARD) brought suit against Cape PLC in the English High Court seeking compensation for their injuries from Cape’s asbestos mining and milling activity in South Africa.  The plaintiffs, former Cape workers and individuals living in the vicinity of Cape’s operations, alleged that Cape exposed its workers to 30 times the British legal limit of asbestos dust without adequate protective gear and that asbestos related injuries were suffered by those living near Cape’s asbestos operations.  After the claim was filed, Cape applied to stay these claims on forum non conveniens grounds, arguing that the case should be tried in South Africa.  At the beginning of 1998, Cape’s application was granted by the trial court, but the Court of Appeals later reversed the lower court’s decision.  In 1999, another 2000 claims were commenced against Cape in England for ARD based on Cape’s activity in South Africa.  Cape reapplied to stay these new claims, in addition to those filed in 1997, and Cape’s application was granted.  On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the lower court’s ruling.  The plaintiffs then appealed to the UK House of Lords, and in 2000 the Law Lords held that the case should be allowed to continue in the English High Court.  The Law Lords found that South African courts would not be a viable alternative forum because legal aid in South Africa had been withdrawn for personal injury claims and no reasonable likelihood existed for the plaintiffs to acquire effective legal representation on a contingency fee basis for a case of such complexity.  After the House of Lords decision, more claimants joined the case, and by 2001 there were approximately 7500 claimants.  In 2001, Cape agreed to a £21 million out-of-court settlement with the plaintiffs, but the company encountered financial problems in August 2002 and did not meet the agreed settlement terms.  Therefore, the litigation recommenced in September 2002, and Gencor Ltd. was joined as a defendant in the case.  Gencor is a South African company which took over some of Cape’s South African asbestos operations when Cape left the country in 1979. 

In 2003, the plaintiffs, Cape and Gencor reached a settlement agreement.  There were three parts to the settlement.  First, Gencor established and now administers a £35 million trust in South Africa (the trust is to compensate ARD victims in South Africa who were not represented by Leigh Day & Co.).  Second, Cape settled with its 7500 claimants for £7.5 million.  Third, Gencor settled with the 7500 claimants for approximately £3 million.

 

- [PDF] “Cape plc: South African Mineworkers' Quest for Justice”, Richard Meeran [counsel for plaintiffs], International Journal of Occupational Environmental Health, Jul/Sep 2003

- Action for Southern Africa: “Cape Caves in on South African Asbestos Case”, 13 Mar 2003

 

- Cape PLC: Cape Annual Report 2003 [scroll to page 47, item 26(ii) for discussion of 2003 settlement]

 

- Leigh Day & Co. (plaintiffs’ counsel): South African Asbestos Victims Finally Get Their Money, 30 Jun 2003

- Thompsons Solicitors (counsel for claimants suing Gencor): Landmark Settlement Brings Justice for Thousands of SA Former Asbestos Miners, 13 Mar 2003

 

- UK House of Lords: Judgments - Schalk Willem Burger Lubbe (Suing as Administrator of the Estate of Rachel Jacoba Lubbe) and 4 Others and Cape Plc. and Related Appeals, 20 July 2000 [House of Lords decision]

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Article
14 March 2003

Asbestos deal won't bring back the dead [South Africa]

Author: South African Press Association, in Mail & Guardian [South Africa]

Various organisations said on Thursday nothing would reverse the loss of life and damage suffered by victims of asbestos-related diseases but they welcomed the settlement agreements with Cape plc and Gencor with a mixture of anger and relief.

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Article
14 March 2003

Black workers to receive £45m asbestos settlement [South Africa]

Author: David Black, Guardian [UK]

Thousands of black South African workers suffering from asbestos-related diseases yesterday secured multi-million pound compensation deals from two leading mining companies, after six years of legal wrangling in London and Johannesburg. British company Cape has agreed to pay £7.5m in compensation to 7,500 workers, and Gencor, a South African company which took over many Cape operations in 1979, has agreed to set up a trust fund for its workers, worth 448 million rand (£37.5m). Gencor will pay an additional £3.21m to the Cape claimants, who were also exposed to Gencor's operations.

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Article
14 March 2003

Gold Mines Could Face Gencor-Type Lawsuits [South Africa]

Author: Business Day [South Africa]

[to find article, scroll half-way down the page] Spoor said far more workers had silicosis than asbestosis [refers to AngloGold]

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Article
14 March 2003

Less money for mining victims

Author: Justin Arenstein, Mail & Guardian [South Africa]

Cape plc’s South African asbestos victims will get only one-third of the £21-million originally promised them by the British-based multinational.

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Article
30 June 2003

Cape plc finally pays out

Author: Business Day [South Africa]

A long-running battle for compensation by the British company Cape to South African miners with asbestos-related diseases was settled yesterday for 7.5 million pounds. The settlement includes provision for a further 3.1 million pounds by the South African company Gencor, making a total payout to the workers of around 10.6 million pounds. The compensation deal was clinched in March, but formally approved yesterday

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Article
30 June 2003

Pay-out for ill miners cut by half [South Africa]

Author: Lynne Altenroxel, Mercury [South Africa]

After a four-year battle, thousands of terminally-ill asbestos miners have learnt that they will receive only half of the money promised to them in a multi-million rand lawsuit. [settlement by Cape Plc and Gencor]

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Article
3 July 2003

Global actions against multinational companies

Author: Leigh, Day & Co

[refers to lawsuits in UK against Rio Tinto for conduct in Namibia, Thor Chemicals for conduct in South Africa, Cape Plc & Gencor for conduct in South Africa]

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Article
9 December 2003

Human rights for all people for all times

Author: Amnesty International Secretary General, Irene Khan [adapted from speech at Novartis conference]

Amnesty International has been working on the issue of human rights and business for over 10 years...We work in a variety of ways, some more controversial than others, ranging from mass mobilisation to tabling shareholder resolutions and participating in voluntary schemes like the Global Reporting Initiative and the UN Global Compact to dialogue and training of corporate actors. [refers to BP, Shell, ExxonMobil, Coca-Cola, Cape plc, Unocal]

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Article
8 January 2004

Asbestosis victims continue their fights while multinationals duck and dive [So. Africa]

Author: Ronnie Morris, Business Report [So. Africa]

Moral responsibility by multinational firms towards former mineworkers who are ill or dying because of exposure to asbestos dust and fibres appears to be an elusive dream. One need look no further than the shameful actions of British firm Cape when 7 500 South Africans sued for damages in the London high court…In the end, Cape agreed to settle out of court…Despite several extensions, Cape reneged on its undertakings while people continued to die of asbestos-related diseases. The company eventually paid £7.5 million…Gencor…did the honourable thing when confronted with litigation by 37 former mineworkers…Gencor agreed to settle out of court and paid a final settlement of R460.5 million. The company denied any liability. [also refers to Leigh Day, Impala Platinum, Griqualand Exploration & Finance Co., Msauli Asbes Beperk, Xstrata Coal, Wandrag Asbestos Mining Co., Lonmin]

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Article
25 June 2004

[DOC] Corporate Social Responsibility: The International Aspects

Author: Sir Geoffrey Chandler

Companies today have a choice – of continuing to oppose anything that goes beyond the voluntary, so incurring further erosion of reputation and public trust, or of engagingly constructively with efforts to provide an appropriate regulatory framework.

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