On 10 April 2019 the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom delivered judgment in the case of Vedanta v Lungowe, which concerned the liability of an English company for environmental damage caused by its subsidiary in Zambia. The decision confirms that English parent companies can owe a duty of care to foreign claimants affected by operations of their subsidiaries abroad and that the English courts may have jurisdiction to hear such cases, even when a foreign court is a more appropriate place for the trial. It establishes an important precedent for providing access to justice for foreign claimants in transnational corporate liability litigation. Given the global presence of English companies and the fact that their foreign subsidiaries have been involved in multiple cases of environmental damage in the host states, the decision could give an impetus to future claims being brought in the English courts. Also, the decision opens some interesting possibilities for climate change liability litigation against English parent companies and their foreign subsidiaries, as their cumulative greenhouse gas emissions are likely to be considerably higher than when taken separately, arguably making prospective claims against them more viable.
Samvel Varvastian and Felicity Kalunga, Transnational Corporate Liability for Environmental Damage and Climate Change: Reassessing Access to Justice after Vedanta v Lungowe, Transnational Environmental Law. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S2047102520000138. Published online by Cambridge University Press: 15 May 2020.