The Court of Appeal has held that claims brought in the English court by over 200,000 claimants arising out of the 2015 collapse of the Fundão Dam in Brazil can proceed, overturning the High Court's decision which had struck out the claims as an abuse of process in light of concurrent proceedings and compensation schemes in Brazil: Municipio de Mariana v BHP Group (UK) Ltd [2022] EWCA Civ 951.

Whilst set in a non-financial context, this decision is relevant to UK-domiciled financial institutions who might be considered to be at risk of claims being brought which allege a duty of care in relation to the actions of their foreign subsidiaries or branches.

The High Court had concluded that the proceedings would be "irredeemably unmanageable", and that allowing the claims to progress simultaneously in England and Brazil would "foist upon the English courts the largest white elephant in the history of group actions". The Court of Appeal, however, held that unmanageability could not itself justify a finding of abuse of process, and in any event a conclusion as to unmanageability could not be reached safely at such an early stage of the proceedings, when the precise nature and scope of the issues between the parties had yet to be identified. The proper time for considering how to manage the proceedings would be at a case management conference before the assigned judge, at which point the parties would be obliged to co-operate in putting forward case management proposals.

It was also significant that the Court of Appeal disagreed with the judge's conclusions as to the claimants' ability to obtain full redress in Brazil against the particular defendants. In light of the particular procedures in Brazil, and the uncertainty as to which entities could properly bring proceedings, the court was satisfied that there was a real risk that full redress could not be obtained.

For a more detailed discussion of the High Court's decision, please see our litigation blog post.

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