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Claim to proceed in England and not Zambia

The case, Vedanta v Lungowe, concerned 1,826 Zambian citizens bringing claims against both the owner and the operator of a copper mine in Zambia in relation to personal injury and damage to property from toxic emissions from the mine. The operating company was a Zambian company. Its parent company was the owner and this company was domiciled in England.

The Zambian citizens brought their claims in England on the basis that the owner was an English Company. The owner and operator both challenged the jurisdiction of the English courts to deal with the claims.

The Supreme Court decided that England was the proper place for the claims to be brought. This is because although the mine and the claimantswere located in Zambia, the mine operated under a Zambian licence and acts took place in Zambia, there was a real risk that substantial justice would not be obtained in Zambia. This was because there would be no legal aidavailable and conditional fee agreements are illegal. Therefore, the claimant would not be able to fund the claim. Furthermore, there was no suitable legal representation in Zambia.

This case has potential in some circumstances to expose parent companies to claims resulting from the actions of their subsidiaries in other countries.

For advice on Litigation matters, please contact Patricia Wollington, a solicitor in our Litigation team.