Kalma v African Minerals. Court of Appeal confirms absence of vicarious liability, no omissions with the mother holding.

Update 18 May 2020 for an amicus curiae brief urging the Supreme Court to hear the case, see here.

I reviewed [2018] EWHC 3506 (QB) Kalma v African Minerals et al in an earlier post. It essentially entails vicarious liability of UK-incorporated companies (jurisdiction firmly settled therefore) for human rights abuses committed by Sierra Leone police (SLP), who ensured security at the defendants’ mine. All claims were held to have failed and the Court of Appeal in [2020] EWCA Civ 144 has confirmed same on 17 February (a little before the important SCC ruling in Nevsun).

The High Court’s discussion of the factual involvement of the companies with SLP activities, required to establish vicarious liability, as I noted at the time has echoes of the discussion on the level of oversight required for mother companies to be held liable for subsidiaries’ actions (such as e.g, in Apartheid, Shell (in The Netherlands) or of course in Vedanta). (The case otherwise does not raise the kind of jurisdictional or applicable law issues readers often find on this blog).

Of most relevance for the corporate social responsibility (CSR) issues are the grounds of appeal concerning the alleged duty of care owed, discussed at 110 ff: appellants say that the judge wrongly approached this case as a case of “pure omissions” and that, instead, he should have considered the existence of the duty by reference to first principles and, in particular, the three elements identified in Caparo v Dickman, namely foreseeability, proximity and whether or not such a duty was fair, just and reasonable (Ground 3). The appellants also have an alternative case that, if this was a case of pure omissions, the judge should have found that it was one of the recognised exceptions to the rule, namely that it involved the creation of the danger by the respondents themselves (Ground 4). Core factual consideration in all this are the money, vehicles and accommodation provided to the SLP, which the judge had found was common in Sierra Leone.

Coulson LJ reiterated with the judge that the duty of care tenet was one of omission: failure to protect the claimants (the respondents, arguendo, having failed to protect the claimants from the harm caused by the SLP). Extensive analysis of Turner J’s judgment at the High Court found no reason to reach a different conclusion than his.

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 8, Heading 8.3.

 

Kalma v African Minerals. Vicarious liability for human rights abuses at the hands of Sierra Leone police.

[2018] EWHC 3506 (QB) Kalma v African Minerals et al was held by the High Court on 19 December 2018. It essentially entails vicarious liability of UK-incorpored companies (jurisdiction firmly settled therefore) for human rights abuses committed by Sierra Leone police (SLP), who ensured security at the defendants’ mine. All claims were held to have failed. The judgment is lengthy and very factual, please refer to same.

Matrix have brief analysis here, critical reception of the judgment is inter alia here. The case does not raise the kind of jurisdictional or applicable law issues which trigger interest of this blog (such as yesterday’s post on Nevsun Resources). Nevertheless discussion of the factual involvement of the companies with SLP activities, required to establish vicarious liability, has echoes of the discussion on the level of oversight required for mother companies to be held liable for subsidiaries’ actions (such as e.g, in Apartheid or in various CSR cases making their way through UK courts).

Of additional note:

  • Turner J’s discussion at 61 ff headed ‘keeping things in proportion’: the difficulty of a judge;s task, particularly at 63: ‘I make no complaint about the volume of written material which has been provided for my assistance. I have read all of it carefully. Both sides have been extremely well served by the industry and thoroughness of their respective legal teams. Inevitably, however, and for the sake of proportionality, I have had to leave a very considerable number of these points on the cutting room floor. This does not mean that I have failed to consider them or that I have discarded them as being entirely redundant but merely that the inclusion of their analysis or resolution in an already lengthy judgment would not have a material impact on the determination of the central issues.’ Less can be more.
  • At 84: irrelevance of CSR discussions: ‘Both sides were very enthusiastic about the idea of setting the parameters of their evidence and submissions to cover broad issues concerning the general level of social responsibility displayed by the defendant – upon which topic they predictably entertained very different views. This, however, I have not permitted. The consequences of the exploration of such issues would have been entirely disproportionate, in terms both of time and costs, to the limited value of resolving them. For the same reason, I do not propose to adjudicate upon the rights and wrongs of the community and employment disputes which lay behind the incidents to which they gave rise.’

Geert.

(Handbook of) European Private International Law, 2nd ed. 2016, Chapter 8, Heading 8.3.

 

%d bloggers like this: