UK: Proposed changes to civil litigation funding will restrict access to justice for victims of UK multinational human rights violations, says Richard Meeran of Leigh Day

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Article
21 June 2011

'Justice' Bill to put corporate wrongdoers beyond the law [UK]

Author: Leigh Day (UK)

The Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, unveiled by Prime Minister David Cameron today, will make human rights litigation against multinationals unviable and tip the balance in favour of the UK’s most powerful companies at the expense of victims, particularly in the developing world. Over the past two decades, Leigh Day has brought a series of landmark cases against companies accused of serious human rights and environmental abuses around the world. These have included claims against Anglo-American on behalf of South African miners exposed to asbestos dust, against BP for environmental degradation caused by construction of an oil pipeline in Colombia and against Trafigura on behalf of 30,000 Ivorians injured by the dumping of toxic waste. These cases are already extremely risky and expensive to run, often involving teams of lawyers working for years and trawling through thousands of company documents. The changes to the civil costs regime proposed under the new bill now threaten to make them impossible.

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Article
24 May 2011

Multinationals will profit from the government's civil litigation shakeup [UK]

Author: Richard Meeran, Leigh Day, in The Guardian [UK]

The government's proposed changes to the civil litigation costs regime, which will severely restrict access to justice for many vulnerable individuals, have so far passed relatively unnoticed. However, those adversely affected will include victims of UK multinational human rights violations in developing countries…Two aspects of the government's proposals…will dramatically impact on claimant lawyers' ability and enthusiasm to litigate in future: First, that defendants should only pay claimants' legal costs if "proportionate" to the compensation…these cases…are intrinsically complex. Moreover as so much is at stake, the multinationals instruct top City law firms to defend them to the hilt. Consequently, legal costs invariably substantially exceed compensation…Secondly, claimant lawyers' success fees will not be recoverable from defendants and would instead need to be deducted from claimants' compensation…The result – that claimants' lawyers can recover legal costs only up to the level of damages without success fees – will make these multinational cases financially unviable. [refers to Cape, Thor Chemicals, Trafigura, BP, Monterrico Metals (part of Zijin)]

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