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

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