A mass tort claim arises where a tortious act results in harm to numerous victims, and therefore, leads to multiple claimants bringing a claim against the tortfeasor(s). They are often “bet-the-company” matters which raise complex legal and factual issues, particularly in relation to reputational risk, funding and access to justice, parent company liability, jurisdiction and settlement.
A number of claimant law firms are now targeting this area and are actively identifying potential claims and commencing actions before the English courts. In particular, there is an increasing trend of parties seeking to hold multi-national companies liable for the conduct of their foreign subsidiaries in developing countries. This trend poses a litigation risk to any UK-headquartered parent companies with operations overseas, particularly operations in jurisdictions with high political risk and/or challenges for corporate governance.
At present, there has been no final judicial decision in which a UK-headquartered parent company has been held liable for the overseas operations of its overseas subsidiary. However, there are several ongoing cases in this area, focusing on issues of jurisdiction and parent company liability. The outcome of these cases will help to clarify the ability for such claims to be brought in the English court.
Mass tort claims can arise in a variety of contexts, but often relate to environmental pollution (aka toxic tort claims), health and safety breaches, human rights abuses and corporate governance failures. Similarly, while mass tort claims can arise in any industry, they are particularly common in the following sectors:
- Oil and gas
- Technology, media and telecommunications, and
- Life sciences.
Simmons & Simmons is at the forefront of mass tort litigation: we are able to provide expert insight in relation to the defence of mass tort claims and minimisation of potential liability. This microsite is regularly updated with articles and podcasts summarising the key themes, developments and issues in relation to mass tort claims.