DAC wins appeal case for asbestos company

DAVIES Arnold Cooper (DAC) is celebrating a Court of Appeal victory for English company Cape against 3,000 South African miners suffering from asbestos-related diseases.

DAC senior partner David McIntosh – appointed to head the Law Society's human rights committee last month – is taking an active role in the case, in which Cape is accused of causing suffering and death to thousands of miners.

Lord Justice Pill, Lord Justice Tuckey and Lord Justice Aldous rejected the claimants' appeal to have their case heard in England on the grounds that the courts in South Africa are the most appropriate forum for the high-profile case. They have still to issue a full judgment.

However Leigh Day & Co, representing the miners, says its clients cannot bring their case in South Africa due to the collapse of the legal aid system there. It has abolished aid for personal injury claims and is in crisis, with more than £7m owed to legal practitioners across the country. (The Lawyer) on 6/9/99.

Leigh Day partner Richard Meeran, who is running the miners' case, says he plans to appeal the decision to the House of Lords. As the case drags on, many of the miners are dying of their illness.

High Court Judge Buckley stayed the claims of all the miners in July despite an earlier ruling by the House of Lords in December that five could proceed with their claims. Judge Buckley ruled that South Africa was an available forum and the cases should be litigated there.

The Court of Appeal has made three attempts to hear the claim, after two judges stood down owing to personal interests in the case.

The court ruled Lord Justice Evans ineligible to hear the case in August after DAC filed an application to have him taken off the case – a move which many lawyers saw as a direct repercussion of the embarrassment caused to the judiciary by Lord Hoffmann's failure to declare an interest during extradition hearings into Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Then, on the morning of the hearing, Lord Justice Beldam stood down owing to distant family connections with Cape. He was replaced by Lord Justice Pill.