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

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