SPG Law bring claim in Liverpool against BHP Billiton for victims of Bento Rodrigues dam disaster

LIVERPOOL, United Kingdom, Nov. 05, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- SPG Law, a law firm consisting of some of the top class action and group action litigators in the U.S. and the U.K., are bringing one of the largest claims in UK legal history against BHP Billiton PLC, one of the parent companies of Brazilian dam operator Samarco Mineiracao S.A. (“Samarco”), for damages resulting from the Bento Rodrigues dam disaster.

The village of Bento Rodrigues was destroyed in November 2015 by floods caused by the failure of Samarco’s Fundão dam in what has been called ‘the worst environmental disaster in Brazil’s history’.

SPG Law are representing over 240,000 individuals in Brazil who were victims of the disaster, which claimed the lives of nineteen people, destroyed 1,469 hectares of riparian forest and caused catastrophic environmental damage to the Rio Doce river basin.

The group action, filed in the High Court in Liverpool, is being brought for damages both on behalf of individuals and on behalf of communities, foundations and indigenous peoples collectively.

SPG Law is also representing 24 Brazilian municipal governments, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Mariana and members of the Krenak indigenous community.

As BHP Billiton PLC is a UK registered company, SPG Law are bringing the claim in Liverpool under Brazilian law which provides for a number of different ways of holding parent companies liable for the acts and omissions of their subsidiaries, including Samarco. SPG Law believe that the total liabilities of BHP Billiton PLC will run into billions of pounds.

One of SPG Law’s U.S. partners, Glenn Phillips, commented: “BHP Billiton PLC are liable for the massive damage caused by the Bento Rodrigues dam disaster because Brazil’s laws provide both for strict liability for environmental torts and for parent companies to be liable for the acts and omissions of their subsidiaries”.

SPG Law partner Tom Goodhead, who has spent the last three months in Brazil working on the claim, commented: “Three years on from the tragedy, nearly a million Brazilian citizens affected by the disaster have either not been compensated at all or have received low financial settlements. In essence they have been ignored and forgotten. The process of compensation has so far been in the hands of the Defendants. This is about putting the Claimants in control.”

Harris Pogust, SPG Law’s managing partner of their Liverpool office, said: “These are people who have suffered greatly and have been failed by the Brazilian judicial system and the Renova Foundation. Now, they have the ability to fight back and, three years on from the disaster, a real opportunity to achieve justice.” 

Notes to editors:

  1. Press enquiries and interview requests: Alex Just (Pagefield Global)
    (e) ajust@pagefieldglobal.com   (t) +44 (0)207 406 7439   (m) +44 (0)7384 254 297
  1. For further information, please visit www.spglaw.co.uk
  2. BHP Billiton PLC is a British publicly listed company which operates in a dual-listed company structure with BHP Billiton Limited (an Australian publicly listed company).

    BHP Billiton Brasil LTDA is the Brazilian holding of BHP Billiton PLC.

    Samarco Mineiracao S.A. is a Brazilian mining company and was the operator of the Fundao dam. It is a joint venture between BHP Billiton Brasil LTDA and Vale S.A.
  1. SPG Law is a unique partnership of top UK and US lawyers who all have expertise in group litigation related to consumer, pharmaceutical and environmental cases. SPG Law opened offices in Liverpool and London in September 2018.
  2. Lawyers working on the Bento Rodrigues dam case include: Tom Goodhead (SPG Law), Glenn Philipps (SPG Law), Nigel Taylor (SPG Law), Harry Steinberg QC (12 Kings Bench Walk) and Andrew Onslow QC (3VB) and Jonathan McDonagh (Serle Court).
  3. SPG Law is already pursuing group claims in the UK against British Airways and Cathay Pacific following serious data global data breaches and the German carmaker VW for misleading customers over its emissions figures.