Monday, December 2, 2013

Climate change litigation by the backdoor

A U.S. attorney is reporting about a lawsuit of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East against Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co. LLC and about 100 other oil and gas companies. The lawsuit is based on the duty of care derived from various regulations dealing with the protection of water-ways and the coastal area. The defendants have allegedly damaged the coastal protection by the construction of a network of canals. By the canals that these gas companies built, saltwater enters heavily the Louisiana’s coastal landscape and interior wetlands. The saltwater damages the vegetation. The damaged vegetation cannot hold the soil. Thus the soil is washed away. The loss of soil and vegetation reduces the protecting effect of the coastal area: hurricanes are not slowed down to the same extent. This endangers the big coastal cities. Furthermore the plaintiff claims: “Unless immediate action is taken to reverse these losses and restore the region’s natural defense, many of Louisiana’s coastal communities will vanish into the sea.”

The attorney holds that the plaintiff, ultimately the state of Louisiana, is particularly vulnerable to this damage due to effects of climate change. He claims that this increased vulnerability is anyway attributable to the torfeasor. He quotes the Seventh Circuit in Schmude v.Tricam Industries: “If a tortfeasor inflicts a graver loss on his victim than one would have expected because the victim had some pre-existing vulnerability, that is the tortfeasor's bad luck; you take your victim as you find him.”

The plaintiff's attorney does not exclude that others follow the example given by Louisiana. What he fails to point-out is that in the case of Louisiana, the increased vulnerability of the plaintiff is also to some extent due to the past activities of the defendants: didn't they contribute to climate change as well?

In this blog we discuss news and tactics used to discourage contributors to climate change. This lawsuit differs from most in this blog because the plaintiff is suing the defendants not directly for the damages caused by their contribution to climate change but for canals weakening the coast from protecting itself from climate change regardless of there actual contribution to climate change.

Thus this tactic can be used for other plaintiffs. If this tactic is copied it could demotivate actions that contribute to climate change in so far as one can assume that cases of coasts damaged by oil and gas companies make this tactic particularly suitable for making CO2 polluters pay, by the backdoor.

The original filing can be found here: http://jonesswanson.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/Petition-for-Damages-and-Injunctive-Relief-with-Exhibits-A-G.pdf

Related: Comer v. Murphy Oil climate change litigation case dismissed

Monday, October 28, 2013

Relaunch the Kivalina case outside the U.S. - Why U.S. attorneys should enlarge the playing field of climate change litigation

The Alaskan Island of Kivalina sinking because of rising
sea level, while the U.S. Supreme Court does nothing
(Image: Claimer.org)
U.S. attorneys were the worldwide environmental law pioneers by suing CO2 emitting industries for compensation. Almost all “real” cases on compensation for climate change damages took place in the U.S. Despite excellent preparation and documentation of damages, these lawsuits had no success so far, the most famous of which being the Kivalina v. ExxonMobil case. And prospects for success look rather dire at the level of the nation state. A very detailed analysis about the Kivalina case can be found here. In response thereto, U.S. attorneys are now turning to States Law of the U.S. This is an understandable strategy. But is it the most promising?

Alternatively, U.S. attorneys could enlarge the playing field by investigating legal possibilities for their clients in other jurisdictions outside the U.S. Claimer.org has investigated legal possibilities for climate change compensation worldwide. In absence of real cases on climate change compensation, it did so by reviewing available civil law publications and by analyzing the civil law codes.

At Claimer.org we applied mainly two criteria when evaluating jurisdictions:
  • Likelihood of negligence being assumed for climate damaging industries;
  • Likelihood of joint and common liability being assumed (proportionate compensation is hardly of any interest to victims of climate change as no company individually contributes more than 2 % to the overall CO2 emissions; and even if joint and common liability doesn't get accepted in climate change cases, states with a joint-and-common-liability tradition are certainly more open to intermediate theories).
In addition to these two main criteria, we at Claimer.org highlight specific elements on this blog playing against or in favor of successful climate change compensation lawsuits, such as special rules on the burden of proof or on class actions.

The picture gained from reviewing the publicly available sources and civil codes is the following:
  • According to publications specialized on climate change compensation, comparatively good chances exist for obtaining climate change compensation in India and in Brazil. According to our investigation of the Brazilian Civil Code, Brazil is indeed interesting in so far as it is particularly generous as to the level of negligence required and even establishes strict liability. However, it is not sure whether Brazilian courts would stipulate a joint and common liability for CO2 emitting industries.
  • We also has also investigated and wrote in this blog about the Civil Codes of Mexico, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile. In Mexico, Argentina, and Uruguay, there are no chances for success. But in Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, and Chile chances for success look astonishingly good. Furthermore, Colombia, Ecuador and Chile do recognize class actions.
  • In Europe and Australia, chances for success (both according to literature and Claimer.org's own investigation) are not better than in the U.S. Quite evident dogmatic obstacles can be identified for almost all states investigated. But there are two exceptions: the Netherlands and Sweden. Both states have a joint and common liability system. And both states have relatively low hurdles for demonstrating negligence. Furthermore, the law of the Netherlands seems to recognize statistical evidence for causality – this is anything but granted in the European context. In Sweden, there is the possibility to launch class actions – very much an exception on the old continent.
Going forward
What would need to be done if a U.S. attorney reading this article wished to check out possibilities in Latin America, Sweden or the Netherlands?

In the case of Latin America, suitable defendants have to be identified and the international private law to be examined in a view of these defendants: does the international private law of the respective country provide for the possibility to sue the defendant in relation to a damage that occurred in the U.S. and for a claimant with residence or place of business in the U.S.? Claimer.org is confident that the answer will be positive for defendants causing CO2 emissions in the respective Latin-American state. It is a common principle of international private law that the place of the tort action is, regardless of the place of residence or business, recognized as forum, and Articles 167 and 168 of the Latin American Convention on International Private Law (see extract below) look very much as abiding to this principle. It is less likely (but not excluded either) that some Latin-American states are a forum for more complex situations. E.g. it is to be investigated if in these states a company can be sued when its mother or daughter company caused damages by activities outside the very Latin-American state.

Extract of the Latin American Convention on International Private Law
Spanish originalEnglish translation
Art. 167. Las (obligaciones) originadas por delitos o faltas se sujetan al mismo derecho que el delito o falta de que procedan.Article 167. Those (the obligations) arising from crimes or offenses are subject to the same law as the crime or offense they come from.
Art. 168. Las (obligaciones) que se deriven de actos u omisiones en que intervenga culpa o negligencia no penadas por la ley, se regirán por el derecho del lugar en que se hubiere incurrido en la negligencia o la culpa que las origine.Article 168. Those (the obligations) arising from acts or omissions involving fault or negligence not punishable by law are governed by the law of the place in which incurred the negligence or fault that caused them (the obligations).
Source: http://www.leychile.cl/Navegar?idNorma=12820

For the Netherlands and for Sweden, Claimer.org has established some documentation that might help to find suitable defendants. The international private law of these states, harmonized by European Union law, provides for the possibility to sue, regardless of the place of residence / business of the claimant or the place of damage, provided that the defendant contributed to the damage by action on the territory of the European jurisdiction or that he has his place of business therein. See the respective section on “Forum” in this article on the Netherlands.

To conclude: It would be regrettable not to use in other jurisdictions the tremendous pioneering investment made by U.S. attorneys in the field of climate change litigation. Climate change, being caused by activities of companies around the world, offers many more possibilities for litigation than the one targeted by U.S. attorneys so far: U.S. victims against U.S. polluters under U.S. law. A thorough investigation of the civil law and the international private law of presumably favorable states and a careful selection of defendants in these states might pave the way for successful lawsuits in other parts of the world; and finally for compensation so much expected by the U.S. victims of climate change. To be provocative: even the Kivalina case could be relaunched in a Latin-American state where the defendants have or had business activities.

Would Latin-American courts dare to impose substantial compensation obligations onto big business? Not necessarily, but some do, see the Chevron case in Ecuador! This is admittedly also a case in which corruption plays a role. But corruption is not much of a topic in many other Latin-American states and almost not at all in the Netherlands or in Sweden

Related: http://news.claimer.org/2012/05/identifying-climate-damage-litigation.html

Thursday, October 24, 2013

5th IPCC report: what's in it for climate change litigation?


Chart containing estimated likelihood of human contribution affecting 
climate change events 
(Image: Claimer.org)
The first part of the 5th IPCC report has been released in the 2nd half of September 2013. It is aiming at indicating the big trends for policy makers. We checked whether some conclusions can be drawn from the first published part for climate change litigation and, more precisely, private law climate change compensation claims.

We start the lecture with the annexes as they contain more precise information. The report makes, in an annexed chart on page 23, assessments on the likelihood of various types of weather and climate modifications (a) to take place and (b) to be attributable to mankind. The report says that the temperature increase is very likely to be attributed to mankind. The higher magnitude and frequency of extreme high sea levels is likely to be attributed to mankind. For heat waves, scientists have only a medium confidence that they really occur more frequently on a global scale, but the likelihood is higher in certain regions. As to the attributability, it is said to be likely. This means that only for certain regions damages due to heatwaves can with likelihood be linked to man-made climate change. For other types of weather and climate modifications than those listed so far, there is even less likelihood regarding occurrence and attributability to mankind.

In the footnotes l and m to that chart (on page 24) and in the chart on the next page of that report (on page 25) there are statements on the average rise of the mean sea level. The IPCC says the sea level rise to be very likely. It indicates a range as to the magnitude of the likely future sea level rise. The rise of the mean sea level and the equally evident melt of ice are both also extensively dealt with in the core text from page 3 onwards. The IPCC report can thus well be used to underpin damages directly linked to the rise of the mean sea level (like loss of land in deltas) and damages linked to the melting of ice or higher temperatures in general. The generally higher temperatures are dealt with on many pages across the report.

The overall trend and findings of this report can best be resumed by the following quote of page 12:
“Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reductions in snow and ice, in global mean sea level rise, and in changes in some climate extremes” 
 (see the charts referred to above on page 24 of IPCC report).
“This evidence for human influence has grown since AR4”
 (AR = Assessment Report).
“It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.”

Read the full report here: http://www.climatechange2013.org/images/uploads/WGIAR5-SPM_Approved27Sep2013.pdf

Related: NGO CDP disclosing data on the CO2 footprint of 500 big companies

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The right to a healthy atmosphere in climate change compensation litigation

Every drop counts towards the right to clean water
could this principle be used for climate change litigation?
(Image: Claimer.org)
Andrew Gage, staff lawyer of the (Canadian) West Coast Environmental Law blog, puts forward a new argumentation in favour of climate change compensation litigation. He argues that the English and Canadian courts commonly recognize the right “to the naturally occurring flow and quality of water past their property”. The fact that a single polluter upstream does not cause a harm by his pollution alone does not hinder his liability, according to the courts. This rule even applies when there are no other polluters yet. The right “to the naturally occurring flow and quality of water past their property” is even infringed if there is no proof of causality between the incriminated act of pollution and a concrete damage. All this is said to be common case-law, says the author.

In analogy to this argumentation, the author states that a “right to a healthy global atmosphere” could be asserted. If the case-law developed for water could be transposed to the climate change litigation, the issues of causality and attributability could be leapfrogged, hopes the author. Causality and attributability are core obstacles to climate change compensation lawsuits in many legal systems.

Claimer.org cannot assess whether it is viable under Canadian, English or any other law to assert a “right to a healthy global atmosphere”. However, we find that our readers should be informed about the possibility to argue in such way. The argumentation put forward is different from the “public trust doctrine” referred to under U.S. law.

Related: Read more about Canadian Environmental law, and other North American Law with regards to climate change litigation.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Claimer.org environmental damage registration software improved

(Image claimer.org)
Claimer.org releases new version
of damage registartion software
Claimer.org improved its damage registration software. This software is mainly intended for climate change damages, but can also be used for other environmental damages. The design of the admin interface was adapted to the common Claimer.org database design. Thereby the presentation became more user friendly. The number of search filter options was increased. All filter criteria can now be combined. It is possible to indicate minimum and maximum values for most filter criteria.

What distinguishes this method of registration from most climate change registration software and databases is that it can be used to log damaged for individuals rather than only for cities or states. This way the damage caused by climate change contributors can be tracked down to the individual claim. These damage claims can be used in legal actions such as litigation law suits against companies contributing to climate change by producing greenhouse gases.

Combining such registration software with such legal actions can be a great deterrent for climate change.

To see our demo version of this registration software, please click here. To check the (free) licencing conditions, please click here.

To download the Claimer.org registration software including the source code, please click here.

Related: read more about the types of legal actions that can be done when such information is registerd

Thursday, September 26, 2013

NGO CDP disclosing data on the CO2 footprint of 500 big companies

Graph of emissions produced in Europe
in Metric tons of CO2
(Image Claimer.org)
The NGO CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project) disclosed CO2 emission data of 500 big companies worldwide, including CO2 effects linked to the supply chain. The report is based on voluntary disclosure by the companies. This implies that the data have not necessarily been verified by a neutral source. However, the data can certainly be used to indicate the minimum CO2 footprint of the big companies participating to the CDP operation.

The list contains electric power and utility companies like Enel, Vattenfall, E.ON, Electricité de France, with RWE topping the list, but also telecommunications companies like  Verizon. Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, and Telefonica because of links via the supply chain.

The list closely matches a list of European power companies found here based on a analysis by Price Waterhouse Cooper and an older article about polluters in Europe on our blog.

The full report from CDP can be found here:
https://www.cdproject.net/CDPResults/CDP-Global-500-Climate-Change-Report-2013.pdf

In a view of climate change compensation claims readers should in particular take note of the CO2 emission graphs on the pages 20, 24, 34, 38 and the table starting on page 49 of the CDP report.

Related: polluters in Europe

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Extreme weather events sometimes attributable to climate change

Extreme weather events attributable to climate change?
(Image Robert A. Rohde)
To what extent can extreme weather events be attributed to climate change? This is the question analysed by Peter A. Stott et al. in their article “The attribution of weather and climate-related events”. The article is part of the book “Climate Science for Serving Society - Research, Modeling and Prediction Priorities” (Editors: Ghassem R. Asrar and James W. Hurrell; ISBN: 978-94-007-6691-4 (Print) 978-94-007-6692-1 (eBook); Springer 2013). 

The authors make a range of subtle statements, like the following: Climate change has increased the likelihood of certain extreme weather events, reduced the likelihood of others and left the likelihood of certain others unchanged. The attribution of a certain extreme weather event to climate change can be possible. However, it must be done by “carefully calibrated physically based assessments of observed weather and climate-related events”. Also the authors hold that “in most cases it is not possible to determine that the weather or climate-related event in question could only have happened because of a particular climate-driver”. But it is possible to calculate an increase of likelihood. The authors mention a few cases where attribution to climate change was possible, amongst them the Moscow heatwave already referred to on this blog.


Related: the World Climate Research Programme report on Attribution of extreme weather events to climate change

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Peru: possibly an interesting forum for climate change compensation

The Supreme Court of Justice Peru
(Image Manuel González Olaechea)
Peru is the latest of the Latin American we look at afters our first look at tort law systems in a view of possible climate change compensation litigation. Based on the Civil Codes of the respective state as few relevant legal literature, we tried to cover the important aspects of possible climate change compensation.

The Civil Code of Peru provides, in its Article 1969, for the classic liability in case of intentionally or negligently caused damage. This Article 1969 contains a special rule: the tortfeasor has to proof that he did not act intentionally or negligently. This facilitates evidently actions against those contributing to climate change: evidence for causality is sufficient.

In addition to the legal base of Article 1969, Article 1970 of the Civil Code of Peru provides for the liability of those who caused a damage by a dangerous object or activity. Though formulated slightly broader than in the case of other Latin-American Civil Codes, the question arrises whether CO2 emitting can be regarded as dangerous activity, given that the causality link between emission and damage is rather remote.

The responsibility under both articles is excluded in the case of legimitate execution of a right (Article 1971). One can certainly argue that it is legimitate to breath and thereby to emit CO2. But is it also a legimitate execution of a right to cause CO2 emissions at an industrial scale when this causes damage to others? Is there a right to emit CO2 at an industrial scale? It is at unlikely that there is a written right to do so, but still the view of judges cannot be predicted.

The Civil Code of Peru provides for joint and common liability of multiple persons responsible for a certain damage.

Given that the victim has no burden of proof for negligence of the tortfeasor and that there is an article providing for joint and common liability, Peru seems to be a comparatively interesting forum for climatge change compensation lawsuits. However, there is some uncertainty due to an exclusion clause which might apply or not.


Relevant articles of the Civil Code of Peru:

SECCION SEXTA - Responsabilidad extracontractual

  • Articulo 1969º.- Indemnizacion por daño moroso y culposo
    Aquel que por dolo o culpa causa un daño a otro esta obligado a indemnizarlo. El descargo por falta de dolo o culpa corresponde a su autor.
  • Articulo 1970º.- Responsabilidad por riesgo
    Aquel que mediante un bien riesgoso o peligroso, o por el ejercicio de una actividad riesgosa o peligrosa, causa un daño a otro, esta obligado a repararlo.
  • Articulo 1971º.- Inexistencia de responsabilidad
    No hay responsabilidad en los siguientes casos:
    1.- En el ejercicio regular de un derecho.
    2.- En legitima defensa de la propia persona o de otra o en salvaguarda de un bien propio o ajeno.
    3.- En la perdida, destruccion o deterioro de un bien por causa de la remocion de un peligro inminente, producidos en estado de necesidad, que no exceda lo indispensable para conjurar el peligro y siempre que haya notoria diferencia entre el bien sacrificado y el bien salvado. La prueba de la perdida, destruccion o deterioro del bien es de cargo del liberado del peligro.
  • Articulo 1972º.- Irresponsabilidad por caso fortuito o fuerza mayor
    En los casos del articulo 1970, el autor no esta obligado a la reparacion cuando el daño fue consecuencia de caso fortuito o fuerza mayor, de hecho determinante de tercero o de la imprudencia de quien padece el daño.
  • Articulo 1983º.- Responsabilidad solidaria
    Si varios son responsables del daño, responderan solidariamente. Empero, aquel que pago la totalidad de la indemnizacion puede repetir contra los otros, correspondiendo al juez fijar la proporcion segun la gravedad de la falta de cada uno de los participantes. Cuando no sea posible discriminar el grado de responsabilidad de cada uno, la reparticion se hara por partes iguales.
Related: If a lawyer is ready to launch a lawsuit in South America they would need to identify potential defendants for such a climate damage litigation cases. This study may provide some tips of what they would need to watch out for.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Ecuador climate change compensation good chances

the National Court of Justice in Ecuador
After our first look at tort law systems in a view of possible climate change compensation litigation we continue researching with Ecuador, based on the Civil Codes and relevant legal literature.

The Civil Code of Ecuador obliges by its Article 2214 the authors of “delitos” (illegal acts / offenses) and of “cuasidelitos” to compensate damages. There is no definition of “delitos” and of “cuasidelitos”, but this term is used in various Latin-American Civil Codes. “Delitos” are commonly characterised by the intention to harm, whereas such an intention is missing in the case of “cuasidelitos”. In the case of emission of climate damaging gases, one can hardly assume that tortfeasors have the intention to harm. Accordingly, emissions of such gases can at best be regarded as “cuasidelito”.

Similar to the law of Colombia, Article 2229 provides that, as a general rule, each damage caused intentionally or negligently has to be compensated. However, it is not clear to us whether this constitutes a separate base for legal action or whether this article just contains an interpretation rule for Article 2214. Under either assumption we assume the result to be close to the most frequently observed outcome: liability for intentionally or negligently caused damage.

In Article 2217 the joint and common liability is stipulated in case of multiple tortfeasors of the same “delito” or “cuasidelito”.

Finally, the Civil Code of Ecuador provides for the possibility of class actions (Articles 2236, 2237).

To sum-up, Ecuador could be a place where victims of climate change might obtain compensation.


Relevant articles of the Civil Code of Ecuador:

TITULO XXXIII DE LOS DELITOS Y CUASIDELITOS
  • Art. 2214.- El que ha cometido un delito o cuasidelito que ha inferido daño a otro, está obligado a la indemnización; sin perjuicio de la pena que le impongan las leyes por el delito o cuasidelito. 
  • Art. 2215.- Puede pedir esta indemnización, no sólo el que es dueño o poseedor de la cosa que ha sufrido el daño, o su heredero, sino el usufructuario, el habitador o el usuario, si el daño irroga perjuicio a su derecho de usufructo o de habitación o uso. Puede también pedirla, en otros casos, el que tiene la cosa con obligación de responder de ella; pero sólo en ausencia del dueño. 
  • Art. 2217.- Si un delito o cuasidelito ha sido cometido por dos o más personas, cada una de ellas será solidariamente responsable de todo perjuicio procedente del mismo delito o cuasidelito, salvo las excepciones de los Arts. 2223 y 2228. Todo fraude o dolo cometido por dos o más personas produce la acción solidaria del precedente inciso. 
  • Art. 2229.- Por regla general todo daño que pueda imputarse a malicia o negligencia de otra persona debe ser reparado por ésta. Están especialmente obligados a esta reparación: 1.- El que provoca explosiones o combustión en forma imprudente; 2.- El que dispara imprudentemente una arma de fuego; 3.- El que remueve las losas de una acequia o cañería en calle o camino, sin las precauciones necesarias para que no caigan los que por allí transitan de día o de noche; 4.- El que, obligado a la construcción o reparación de un acueducto o puente que atraviesa un camino, lo tiene en estado de causar daño a los que transitan por él; y, 5.- El que fabricare y pusiere en circulación productos, objetos o artefactos que, por defectos de elaboración o de construcción, causaren accidentes, responderá de los respectivos daños y perjuicios. 
  • Art. 2235.- Las acciones que concede este Título por daño o dolo prescriben en cuatro años, contados desde la perpetración del acto. 
  • Art. 2236.- Por regla general se concede acción popular en todos los casos de daño contingente que por imprudencia o negligencia de alguno amenace a personas indeterminadas. Pero si el daño amenazare solamente a personas determinadas, sólo alguna de éstas podrá intentar la acción. 
  • Art. 2237.- Si las acciones populares a que dan derecho los artículos precedentes parecieren fundadas, será el actor indemnizado de todas las costas de la acción, y se le pagará lo que valgan el tiempo y diligencia empleados en ella, sin perjuicio de la remuneración específica que conceda la ley en casos determinados. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Colombia: A promising place for seeking climate change damage compensation

Colombian Supreme Court
(Image Torax)
After a brief first look at tort law systems we continue researching possible climate change compensation litigation in Latin American. The blog entries are mainly based tort law in the Civil Codes and a few relevant legal literature, if any, is available on the internet.

The Civil Code of Colombia provides, in its Article 2341, for liability in case of illegal acts / offenses (“delitos”) or of fault (“culpa”). Similar to the law of Ecuador, Article 2356 provides that, as a general rule, each damage caused intentionally or negligently has to be compensated. However, it is not clear to us whether this constitutes a separate base for legal action or whether this article just contains an interpretation rule for Article 2341. Under either assumption we assume the result to be close to the most frequently observed outcome: liability for intentionally or negligently caused damage.

Furthermore, Article 2344 provides for a clause on joint and common liability.

The Colombian Civil Code contains provisions on class action which makes Colombia attractive for lawfirms engaging in climate change damage compensation.

Taking these elements together, we assume that Colombia might be amongst the most interesting jurisdictions for victims of climate change.


Relevant articles of the Civil Code of Colombia:

ARTICULO 2341. <RESPONSABILIDAD EXTRACONTRACTUAL>. El que ha cometido un delito o culpa, que ha inferido daño a otro, es obligado a la indemnización, sin perjuicio de la pena principal que la ley imponga por la culpa o el delito cometido.

ARTICULO 2342. <LEGITIMACION PARA SOLICITAR LA INDEMNIZACION>. Puede pedir
esta indemnización no sólo el que es dueño o poseedor de la cosa sobre la cual ha recaído el daño o su heredero, sino el usufructuario, el habitador, o el usuario, si el daño irroga perjuicio a su
derecho de usufructo, habitación o uso. Puede también pedirla, en otros casos, el que tiene la cosa, con obligación de responder de ella; pero sólo en ausencia del dueño.

ARTICULO 2344. <RESPONSABILIDAD SOLIDARIA>. Si de un delito o culpa ha sido cometido por dos o más personas, cada una de ellas será solidariamente responsable de todo perjuicio procedente del mismo delito o culpa, salvas las excepciones de los artículos 2350 y 2355.
Todo fraude o dolo cometido por dos o más personas produce la acción solidaria del precedente inciso.


ARTICULO 2356. <RESPONSABILIDAD POR MALICIA O NEGLIGENCIA>. Por regla  general todo daño que pueda imputarse a malicia o negligencia de otra persona, debe ser reparado por ésta.
Son especialmente obligados a esta reparación:
1. El que dispara imprudentemente una arma de fuego.
2. El que remueve las losas de una acequia o cañería, o las descubre en calle o camino, sin las
precauciones necesarias para que no caigan los que por allí transiten de día o de noche.
3. El que obligado a la construcción o reparación de un acueducto o fuente, que atraviesa un camino, lo tiene en estado de causar daño a los que transitan por el camino.

ARTICULO 2358. <PRESCRIPCION DE LA ACCION DE REPARACION>. Las acciones para la reparación del daño proveniente de delito o culpa que puedan ejercitarse contra los que sean punibles por el delito o la culpa, se prescriben dentro de los términos señalados en el Código Penal para la prescripción de la pena principal.
Las acciones para la reparación del daño que puedan ejercitarse contra terceros responsables, conforme a las disposiciones de este capítulo, prescriben en tres años contados desde la perpetración del acto.

ARTICULO 2359. <TITULAR DE LA ACCION POR DAÑO CONTINGENTE>. Por regla general se concede acción en todos los casos de daño contingente, que por imprudencia o negligencia de alguno amenace a personas indeterminadas; pero si el daño amenazare solamente a personas determinadas, sólo alguna de éstas podrá intentar la acción.

ARTICULO 2360. <COSTAS POR ACCIONES POPULARES>. Si las acciones populares a que dan derecho los artículos precedentes, se declararen fundadas, será el actor indemnizado de todas las costas de la acción, y se le pagarán lo que valgan el tiempo y la diligencia empleados en ella, sin perjuicio de la remuneración específica que conceda la ley en casos determinados.

Update: similar chances seem to exist in Ecuador



Monday, April 8, 2013

Venezuela: apparently rather good chances for victims of climate change

Venezuela climate change changes apparently look good
(Image: Claimer.org)
In a series of short blog entries we have a first look on Latin American tort law systems in a view of possible climate change compensation litigation. The blog entries are mainly based on the Civil Codes of the respective state as few relevant legal literature, if any, is available on the internet. Here we discuss Venezuela.

Article 1.185 of the Civil Code of Venezuela provides for the liability of those who have intentionally, negligently or by carelessness caused a damage. Basically, this clause may constitute a basis for claiming compensation for climate change damages. For the years following the Kyoto Protocol the causality between the emission of CO2 and certain other gases and climate change is commonly known. Big industries can hardly argue that they did not read the press. Accordingly they accepted consciously the risk of damaging others via the emissions of these gases. Thus at least “negligence” or “carelessness” is given. However, like in all other jurisdictions, the length of the causality chain might invite judges to invoke aspects of attributability. We do not know to what extent the unwritten Venezuelan law or judicial practice is open to this kind of argument.

Article 1.195 clearly stipulates the joint and common liability of multiple tortfeasors.

In summary, Venezuela offers rather good prospects for victims of climate change going for compensation litigation, though there is no procedural privilege like in some other Latin-American states.

Relevant articles of the Civil Code of Venezuela:

De los Hechos Ilícitos

  • Artículo 1.185.- El que con intención, o por negligencia o por imprudencia, ha causado un daño a otro, está obligado a repararlo. Debe igualmente reparación quien haya causado un daño a otro, excediendo, en el ejercicio de su derecho, los límites fijados por la buena fe o por el objeto en vista del cual le ha sido conferido ese derecho. 
  • Artículo 1.195.- Si el hecho ilícito es imputable a varias personas, quedan obligadas solidariamente a reparar el daño causado. Quien ha pagado íntegramente la totalidad del daño, tiene acción contra cada uno de los coobligados por una parte que fijará el Juez según la gravedad de la falta cometida por cada uno de ellos. Si es imposible esta blecer el grado de responsabilidad de los coobligados, la repartición se hará por partes iguales.


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mexico: low chances for getting climate change damage compensation

Climate change compensation chances in Mexico look cloudy
(Image Claimer.org)
We continue our overview of Latin American law relevant to  climate change compensation After Claimer.org's first look at tort law systems in a view of possible  litigation. The blog entries are mainly based on the Civil Codes of the respective state as few relevant legal literature, if any, is available on the internet.

The Mexican tort law offers two articles that merit being examined in our context, but both do not seem to be in favor of the victims of climate change. Article 1910 provides for compensation in case of behavior which is illicit or which is against the good manners. The latter condition (good manners) is not relevant here. The word “illicit” is mostly understood as “infringing law”. Thus victims of climate change would need to prove that CO2 emitting industries violate Mexican law. Based on our experience with European jurisdictions which refer to the criterion “illicit” we guess: Presumably, they would also need to demonstrate that the infringed law aims at the protection against climate change damages. Is there such Mexican law? Not likely. And even if there was, the road would be hard. Unless the word “illicit” was to be understood completely differently: just as another expression for “intentionally” or “negligently”. In this case prospects would be much better. We will at a later point in time verify which interpretation is correct. For the time being, we base our assessment on the first interpretation as it is more likely to be the right one than the second.

The other relevant article is Article 1913 which provides for liability in case of damage caused by dangerous mechanisms, instruments, machines of substances. However, the examples given in this article (danger due to speed, explosiveness, inflammability, electric energy etc.) refer to very much local and immediate effects. Therefore it is unlikely that Mexican judges would apply this article to the remote causality chain which is relevant in the case of climate change.

The existence of joint and common liability for tortfeasors does not remedy to the fact that Mexico is likely to offer just weak legal bases for claiming climate change damage compensation. Therefore we cannot recommend Mexico for the time being as forum for claiming compensation.

Relevant articles of the Civil Code of Mexico:

  • Artículo 1910. El que obrando ilícitamente o contra las buenas costumbres cause daño a otro, está obligado a repararlo, a menos que demuestre que el daño se produjo como consecuencia de culpa o negligencia inexcusable de la víctima.
  • Artículo 1913. Cuando una persona hace uso de mecanismos, instrumentos, aparatos o substancias peligrosas por sí mismos, por la velocidad que desarrollen, por su naturaleza explosiva o inflamable, por la energía de la corriente eléctrica que conduzcan o por otras causas análogas, está obligada a responder del daño que cause, aunque no obre ilícitamente, a no ser que demuestre que ese daño se produjo por culpa o negligencia inexcusable de la víctima.
  • Artículo 1914. Cuando sin el empleo de mecanismos, instrumentos, etc., a que se refiere el artículo anterior, y sin culpa o negligencia de ninguna de las partes se producen daños, cada una de ellas los soportará sin derecho a indemnización.
  • Artículo 1917. Las personas que han causado en común un daño, son responsables solidariamente hacia la víctima por la reparación a que están obligadas de acuerdo con las disposiciones de este Capítulo.
  • Artículo 1934. La acción para exigir la reparación de los daños causados en los términos del presente capítulo, prescribe en dos años contados a partir del día en que se haya causado el daño.

Update: Venezuela may have better chances


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Uruguay: not to be recommended for climate change litigation

climate change litigation in Uruguay low chances
(Image Marcelo Da Silva)

In a series of short blog entries we have a first look on Latin American tort law systems in a view of possible climate change compensation litigation. The blog entries are mainly based on the Civil Codes of the respective state as few relevant legal literature, if any, is available on the internet.

The Civil Code of Uruguay provides, in its Article 1319, for a precise distinction between “delito” and “cuasidelito”, the first being characterized by the intention to harm. In the case of emission of climate damaging gases, one can hardly assume that tortfeasors such harm. Accordingly, emissions of such gases can at best be regarded as “cuasidelito”. For harm caused by a “cuasidelito”, the second paragraph of Article 1331 excludes explicitly the joint and common liability and refers to a proportionate responsibility. Legal systems which would assume just a proportionate responsibility are not interesting for victims of climate change as even the biggest polluters have no share bigger than 2 %. Accordingly, we cannot recommend Uruguay as a forum.

Relevant articles of the Civil Code of Uruguay:

  • 1319. Todo hecho ilícito del hombre que causa a otro un daño, impone a aquél por cuyo dolo, culpa o negligencia ha sucedido, la obligación de repararlo.
  • Cuando el hecho ilícito se ha cumplido con dolo esto es, con intención de dañar constituye un delito; cuando falta esa intención de dañar, el hecho ilícito constituye un cuasidelito.
  • En uno y otro caso, el hecho ilícito puede ser negativo o positivo, según que el deber infringido consista en hacer o no hacer.
  • 1321. El que usa de su derecho no daña a otro, con tal que no haya exceso de su parte. El daño que puede resultar no le es imputable.
  • 1322. Nadie es responsable del daño que proviene de caso fortuito a que no ha dado causa.
  • 1331. Si un delito ha sido cometido por dos o más personas, cada una de ellas responde solidariamente del daño causado.
  • No es aplicable esta regla cuando el daño proviene de cuasidelito. Sus autores responderán proporcionalmente.
  • 1332. La acción concedida al damnificado prescribe en cuatro años contados desde la perpetración del hecho ilícito.


Monday, March 18, 2013

Chile: no obstacle to climate change compensation at first sight

Climate change compensation in Chile
Articles 2314 and 2329 of the Chilean Civil Code provide for a right for compensation in case of conscious or negligent damaging of others. Though not containing provisions on strict liability, the articles seem to be broad enough to cover climate change damages by referring just to the terms “cuasidelito” and “damage”. This is more generous than the law of Argentina and many other states where there must be the violation of an individual right.

Furthermore, the clauses on joint and common liability are so broadly drafted that they might encompass the case of a multitude of tortfeasors contributing by separate acts to the same damage, see Article 2317. But still judges might have different views on whether this case “was meant” by the authors of the Civil Code.

Finally, the tortlaw of Chile contains specific provisions for class actions. This makes Chile attractive for law firms wishing to engage in the field of climate change compensation litigation (Article 2333).

Taking these elements together, Chile provides for comparatively good prospects. The absence of strict liability (strict liability being the big advantage of Brazil) is compensated by better chances for joint and common liability and the existence of class actions. At first sight, Chile might turn-out to be as (comparatively) attractive as the Netherlands, Sweden and – according to other authors – Brazil and India for claiming compensation for climate change damage. (Please note however that for none of these states we or other authors hold a >50% likelihood of success of lawsuits aiming at compensation for climate change damage.) Chile is, as Brazil, certainly a state that we have to investigate further. We will need to examine, in particular, how the word “negligence” is interpreted. Another possible obstacle: it will not be easy to find suitable defendants which can be attacked under the law of Chile. The electricity production of Chile is quite climate-friendly, and it is not known for being a place of big oil or gas industry yet.

Relevant articles of the Civil Code of Chile:

  • Art. 2314. El que ha cometido un delito o cuasidelito que ha inferido daño a otro, es obligado a la indemnización; sin perjuicio de la pena que le impongan las leyes por el delito o cuasidelito.
  • Art. 2317. Si un delito o cuasidelito ha sido cometido por dos o más personas, cada una de ellas será solidariamente responsable de todo perjuicio procedente del mismo delito o cuasidelito, salvas las excepciones de los artículos 2323 y 2328.
    Todo fraude o dolo cometido por dos o más personas produce la acción solidaria del precedente inciso.
  • Art. 2329. Por regla general todo daño que pueda imputarse a malicia o negligencia de otra persona, debe ser reparado por ésta.
    Son especialmente obligados a esta reparación:
    1.º El que dispara imprudentemente un arma de fuego;
    2.º El que remueve las losas de una acequia o cañería en calle o camino, sin las precauciones necesarias para que no caigan los que por allí transitan de día o de noche;
    3.º El que, obligado a la construcción o reparación de un acueducto o puente que atraviesa un camino lo tiene en estado de causar daño a los que transitan por él.
  • Art. 2332. Las acciones que concede este título por daño o dolo, prescriben en cuatro años contados desde la perpetración del acto.
  • Art. 2333. Por regla general, se concede acción popular en todos los casos de daño contingente que por imprudencia o negligencia de alguien amenace a personas indeterminadas; pero si el daño amenazare solamente a personas determinadas, sólo alguna de éstas podrá intentar la acción.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Brazil: really the promised land for victims of climate change?


A look at climate change law in Brazil
After the first look in short series blog entries we have a first look on Latin American tort law systems in a view of possible climate change compensation litigation mainly based on the Civil Codes of the respective state as few relevant legal literature we continue our look of Latin America. After seeing unlikely chances in Argentina, we continue with with Brazil.

Brazil had been mentioned to us as a state with quite progressive environmental and tort law. Thus we were curious to see whether this general assessment, also to some extent shared in the literature, can be confirmed.

Article 186 of the Civil Code provides for a quite broad definition of “delito” (illegal act) which is the basis of tort law. Contrary to Argentinian law, all violations of the right of another are seen as an illegal act, regardless of whether the violation takes place on purpose or not, by act or by omission. In addition, Article 927 provides for strict liability, thus liability even without negligence, if the activity which caused the damage, by its nature, implies risks for the rights of others.

Furthermore, the Brazilian tort law contains a clause providing for joint and common liability of all tortfeasors, Article 942. However, it is not clear to us whether cases such as the one of climate change (where thousands of tortfeasors contribute to the same damage) would be covered by this article. Article 942 distinguishes between “offense” and “violation” of rights and might be read as if only in the case of “offense” there is joint and common liability.

We will try to find-out more on the Brazilian tort law once we have finished the overview series on Latin American tort law. The basic provisions of Brazilian tort law look promising. At first sight, Brazil might confirm its reputation as being amongst the most (comparatively) attractive states for claiming compensation for climate change damage – together with India and, in our view, the Netherlands, Sweden and possibly Chile. (Please note however that for none of these states we or other authors hold a >50% likelihood of success of lawsuits aiming at compensation for climate change damage.) Having said this, we definitively need to review more literature, above all with regard to the interpretation of Article 942 which provides for joint and common liability. Common and joint liability is particularly relevant for climate change compensation litigation.

Relevant articles of the Civil Code of Brazil:

  • Art. 186. Aquele que, por ação ou omissão voluntária, negligência ou imprudência, violar direito e causar dano a outrem, ainda que exclusivamente moral, comete ato ilícito.
  • Art. 927. Aquele que, por ato ilícito (arts. 186 e 187), causar dano a outrem, fica obrigado a repará-lo.
    Parágrafo único. Haverá obrigação de reparar o dano, independentemente de culpa, nos casos especificados em lei, ou quando a atividade normalmente desenvolvida pelo autor do dano implicar, por sua natureza, risco para os direitos de outrem.
    Parágrafo único. A mesma ação competirá contra aquele em defesa de quem se causou o dano (art. 188, inciso I).
  • Art. 931. Ressalvados outros casos previstos em lei especial, os empresários individuais e as empresas respondem independentemente de culpa pelos danos causados pelos produtos postos em circulação.
  • Art. 942. Os bens do responsável pela ofensa ou violação do direito de outrem ficam sujeitos à reparação do dano causado; e, se a ofensa tiver mais de um autor, todos responderão solidariamente pela reparação.
    Parágrafo único. São solidariamente responsáveis com os autores os co-autores e as pessoas designadas no art. 932.
Relevant legal literature:
http://jus.com.br/revista/texto/8474/responsabilidade-civil-objetiva

Update: Climate change law suit changes in Chile examined

Argentina: difficult for victims of climate change

Argentina not optimal for climate change law suits
In a series of short blog entries we have a first look on Latin American tort law systems in a view of possible climate change compensation litigation. The blog entries are mainly based on the Civil Codes of the respective state as few relevant legal literature, if any, is available on the internet.

In terms of Argentina, this country may not be best suited country to launch a climate change lawsuit.

Article 1.066 of the Argentinian Civil Code limits the scope of tort law to cases in which the written law has clearly stated that a certain behavior is illegal. Emitting CO2 is certainly not defined as illegal. Argentina might thus only be interesting for victims of climate change if they can prove somebody emitted other climate damaging gases for which there is an explicit ban under Argentinian law.

Article 1.081 provides for a joint and common liability of all persons participating to a crime or other illegal act. However, this clause is unlikely to be applied to a multitude of persons contributing by distinct activities to a damage without there being a “crime” or act defined as illegal by written law.

For these two reasons we believe that Argentina is likely to be a difficult country for victims of climate change. Chances to get compensation are comparatively low.

Relevant articles of the Civil Code of Argentina:

  • Art. 1.066. Ningún acto voluntario tendrá el carácter de ilícito, si no fuere expresamente prohibido por las leyes ordinarias, municipales o reglamentos de policía; y a ningún acto ilícito se le podrá aplicar pena o sanción de este código, si no hubiere una disposición de la ley que la hubiese impuesto.
  • Art. 1.067. No habrá acto ilícito punible para los efectos de este código, si no hubiese daño causado, u otro acto exterior que lo pueda causar, y sin que a sus agentes se les pueda imputar dolo, culpa o negligencia.
  • Art. 1.073. El delito puede ser un hecho negativo o de omisión, o un hecho positivo.
  • Art. 1.081. La obligación de reparar el daño causado por un delito pesa solidariamente sobre todos los que han participado en él como autores, consejeros o cómplices, aunque se trate de un hecho que no sea penado por el derecho criminal.
Update: A look at Brazil

Also see: High chances for Climate change law suit in Chile examined
Also see: Low chances in Uruguay
Also see: Low chances in Mexico
Also see: High chances in Venezuela
Also see: liability law in North and Central America: Brazil, Canada, Mexico and the United States

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The state of play of climate change compensation

state of play of climate change compensation
(image Harald Hoyer)
The French press agency Agence France Presse has gratefully published an article on the state of play of climate change compensation via litigation in courts. AFP sees the number of cases on the rise, but has identified no case in which the plaintiffs have obtained compensation.

AFP lists the various difficulties for plaintiffs, but refers also to the history of tobacco compensation lawsuits which were successful only after decades. The article refers mainly to the legal situation in the U.S., as most lawsuits have been filed there. Relatively few lawsuits have been filed elsewhere. We recommend this article above all as an introduction for readers newly interested in climate change compensation via litigation in courts.

Related: have a look at an older overview on climate change litigation lawsuits in the U.S

Monday, January 14, 2013

No evidence for contribution threshold as condition for joint and common liability in Europe

Joint and common liability in Europe shows
no evidence for minimum contribution threshold
(Image by Loganathan R.)
In this website we are always following the latest news about possibilities and barriers to leverage litigation as a tool to slow down climate change. In a previous blog post, we shared with you a theory which, if true, would have relevance for climate change compensation lawsuits in Europe. According to this theory, European jurisdictions all require a minimum contribution of 5% as condition for assuming joint and common liability. The theory had been attributed to a well-known Dutch law professor and judge, Jaap Spier.

Since then we undertook research to find out whether there is some evidence for this theory. However, we haven't found any evidence in the writings of this law professor or in his contributions to the development of a European prototype tort law. Accordingly, we still hold that the “big CO2 polluters”, when sued by climate change victims in the “most appropriate” European countries, run a certain risk of being hold liable for the entire damage and not just proportionately to their individual contribution. “Most appropriate” are those countries which apply the principle of joint and common liability and which do not set-up a high threshold for assuming causality. Mainly the Netherlands and Sweden are fora to be recommended to victims of climate change, as we have stated in various previous posts.

However, we have to recognize an argument of fairness which is linked to the percentage of the defendant's contribution; and this argument is, though weakly, reflected in legal literature. The lower the contribution of a particular defendant, the less judges are likely to regard it as fair to hold the defendant liable for the entire damage on the basis of joint and common liability. Accordingly, it might be recommendable for victims of climate change to sue primarily “big CO2 polluters”. Furthermore, lawyers should prepare a subsidiary argumentation which is not based on joint and common liability. We have presented on this blog such an argumentation: see here.

Related: With this new information you may want to rethink where to launch a climate change lawsuit, here is an overview of different jurisdictions

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