Foreign Direct Liability Claims in Sweden: Learning from Arica Victims KB v. Boliden Mineral AB?

In: Nordic Journal of International Law
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  • 1 Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), Sweden

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On 12 September 2013 what may be the first foreign direct liability claim in Sweden was filed in the County Court of Skellefteå, a court action reflective of a growing wave of civil liability suits in European jurisdictions to hold transnational corporations accountable for human rights violations and environmental damages. This article examines the feasibility of foreign direct liability claims in Sweden, focusing on enabling conditions with regards to jurisdiction, collision rules and applicable law, substantial legal basis, procedural and practical circumstances, and the theories by which parent companies can be held liable for negligence in supervising acts of subsidiaries and contractors. It is demonstrated that foreign direct liability claims on environmental damage are indeed possible in Sweden, albeit with considerable constraints, primarily of a procedural and financial character. The conclusion provides some cautious remarks on the merits of the claim against Boliden and the reform options available to a Swedish government committed to improving the access to justice for victims of violations perpetuated by Swedish companies, their subsidiaries and contractors.

  • 12

    Anderson, supra note 2.

  • 15

    Joseph, supra note 10.

  • 21

    Enneking, supra note 2, p. 175.

  • 26

    J. Ebbesson, ‘Ansvar i Sverige för miljöskadlig verksamhet utomlands’, Juridisk Tidskrift (2006–07) pp. 279–308.

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    Enneking, supra note 2.

  • 36

    P. H. Lindblom, ‘The Growing Role of the Courts and the New Functions of Judicial Process – Fact or Flummery?’, Scandinavian Studies in Law (2007) pp. 281–10. For example, the Anti-Discrimination Act (2008:567), the first law to prohibit discrimination, was passed only as an ECHR requirement.

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  • 44

    Sandström, supra note 42.

  • 49

    Sandström, supra note 42.

  • 50

    Sjåfjell, supra note 23.

  • 57

    Wikholm and Hamzeh, supra note 54. In contrast, in Norway, the Civil Disputes Act (act no. 90 of 17 June 2005) states (Section 4–3) that disputes in ‘international matters’ may only be brought before Norwegian courts when there is a “sufficiently strong connection to Norway”. According to some scholars, this principle was applied in some cases even before the act was modified to its current form.

  • 60

    Bogdan, supra note 55. It is common in Scandinavia to rely on analogies from existing legislation if no specific rules apply to a claim. See also Hellner, supra note 28.

  • 61

    Wikholm and Hamzeh, supra note 54 lists the following decisions by the Supreme Court: NJA 1981, p. 386, NJA 1988, p. 440, NJA 1998, p. 361, NJA 2004, p. 891.

  • 63

    In its decision NJA 1986, p. 729 a Swedish citizen domiciled in England became co-defendant with two other Swedish defendants on the basis of a connection between the claims and a minor relation to Sweden. See Wikholm and Hamzeh, supra note 54.

  • 65

    Bogdan, supra note 58.

  • 70

    Bogdan, supra note 58.

  • 73

    Bogdan, supra note 55.

  • 74

    Ebbesson, supra note 26.

  • 81

    Hellner, supra note 75.

  • 85

    Moberg, supra note 48.

  • 94

    Government of Sweden, supra note 90.

  • 98

    Ebbesson, supra note 26.

  • 103

    Hellner and Radetzki, supra note 77.

  • 104

    Lindblom, supra note 36.

  • 105

    Pålsson, supra note 62.

  • 108

    Amnesty International Sweden, supra note 30.

  • 109

    Pålsson, supra note 62; furthermore, according to RB 18:2–3, so-called ‘kvittning’, that each party covers own costs, is applicable in a limited number of situations.

  • 111

    Pålsson, supra note 62.

  • 113

    Sjåfjell, supra note 23.

  • 114

    E. Strömbäck, ‘Personal Injury Compensation in Sweden Today’, Scandinavian Law Journal (1999) pp. 431–452.

  • 118

    Lindblom, supra note 36.

  • 124

    Nordh, supra note 119.

  • 125

    Lindblom, supra note 123.

  • 128

    Lindblom, supra note 36.

  • 129

    Ebbesson, supra note 26, p. 309.

  • 130

    Saage-Mass, supra note 71.

  • 132

    Swedish Ministry of Justice, supra note 126.

  • 133

    Anderson, supra note 89.

  • 134

    Enneking, supra note 2.

  • 136

    Enneking, supra note 2.

  • 139

    Government of Sweden, supra note 126.

  • 145

    Ebbesson, supra note 26.

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