The High Court has today rejected an application to strike out claims brought by more than 7,000 impoverished farmers from Malawi against the British American Tobacco Group and the Imperial Tobacco Group.
The claimants are all Malawian citizens who lived and worked on tobacco farms in Malawi. They have brought claims in tort and unjust enrichment against various companies in the BAT Group and Imperial Group arising from alleged “unlawful, exploitative and dangerous conditions” on the tobacco farms from which they allege the BAT and Imperial Groups acquire tobacco for use in commercial tobacco products. Those conditions are said to include the widespread use of unlawful child labour, unlawful forced labour and the systematic exposure of vulnerable and impoverished adults and children to extremely hazardous working conditions with minimal protection against industrial accidents, injuries and diseases. The Defendants applied to strike out the claims on the basis that the Particulars of Claim disclosed no reasonable basis for bringing the claims and/or were an abuse of process.
In a judgment handed down today, Mr Justice Martin Spencer rejected those applications as “misconceived”. The judgment contains a useful analysis of the requirements that must be met when issuing and pleading claims and signing statements of truth and the principles that govern the court’s power to strike out claims.
Edward Craven and Richard Hermer QC represented the Claimants and were instructed by Martyn Day and Oliver Holland at Leigh Day.