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:

Update: Climate change law suit changes in Chile examined

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