The Supreme Court
today announced its verdict in the landmark case ofthe
Zambian communities consistently polluted by Konkola Copper Mines
(KCM), a subsidiary of British miner Vedanta Resources Plc, allowing
them to have their case against the parent company and its subsidiary
tried in the UK. The ruling sets a strong legal precedent which will
allow people with claims against subsidiaries of British
multinationals to sue the parent company in the UK.
The judgment by Chief
Justice Lady Hale, and four further judges, re-affirms the rulings of
the Court of Technology and Construction in 2016 and the Court of
Appeal in 2017. Lady Hale refused Vedanta’s pleas in appealing the
former judgments stating that, contrary to the claims of Vedanta’s
the claimants do
have a bona fide claim against Vedanta
the company does owe a duty of care to the claimants, especially in view of the existence of company wide policies on environment and health and safety.
that the size and complexity of the case, and the lack of funding for claimants at ‘at the poorer end of the poverty scale in one of the poorest countries of the world’ means that do not have substantive access to justice in Zambia.
The latest hearing in the case of the Zambian communities consistently polluted by Konkola Copper Mines (KCM), a subsidiary of British miner Vedanta, was heard at the British Supreme Court on 15th and 16th January 2019. A vigil organised by solidarity organisation Foil Vedanta took place outside the court throughout the event in solidarity with the victims of ongoing pollution who have been fighting legal battles for justice in Zambia, and now the UK, for twelve years.
The court heard Vedanta’s second appeal against the High Court’s jurisdiction ruling in the case of Dominic Liswaniso Lungowe vs Vedanta Resources and Konkola Copper Mines. Vedanta attempted to overturn the High Court and Court of Appeal rulings which held that the case of 1,826 polluted farmers against the company and its subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines could be heard in the UK instead of Zambia. The case could represent a precedent in UK law, as, if a duty of care is found to be owed by Vedanta towards the claimants, this would be the first reported case in which a parent company would have been held to owe a duty of care to a person affected by the operations of a subsidiary who is not an employee of the subsidiary.12 This ruling could have major implications for British multinational corporations’ liability, a move which would be welcomed by British Green Party MP Caroline Lucas, who expressed solidarity with the claimants, stating:
British corporations like Vedanta cause toxic pollution overseas,
it’s absolutely right that they pay for the damage. I
stand in solidarity with all those whose drinking water has been
poisoned and livelihoods damaged by Vedanta’s irresponsible pursuit
of profit, and all those campaigning for justice.”