October 14, 2015 (Johannesburg, South Africa) – Today, in a groundbreaking class action in South Africa, the Plaintiffs finished presenting their case-in-chief in support of their Application for class certification in the case of Nkala and 60 Others vs Harmony Gold Mining Company and 31 Others in the High Court of South Africa.
As the first occupational injury class action ever litigated in South Africa, the plaintiffs – hundreds of thousands of Black South African gold miners suffering lung disease – seek relief from Apartheid-era unsafe working conditions. The case seeks to recover compensation for these miners and their family members based on Constitutional rights under South African law, including the right of bodily integrity and the right to bring a class action case. Hausfeld, a global claimants firm, has provided advice to the South African legal team of Charles Abrahams of Abrahams Kiewitz in Cape Town, South Africa and others going back to the beginnings of this effort in the early 2000s.
The case alleges an industry –wide systematic failure to provide known health and safety and ventilation protections to this class of miners, in spite of well recognized safe practices instituted by the same mining companies elsewhere in the world. Mr. Abrahams in commenting on the close of Plaintiffs’ case noted that “over this time period, South Africa led the world in extraction of gold from the earth, but lagged far behind in the protection of its workers.” Richard Lewis of Hausfeld added that “the impacts on the miners and their families have been devastating, in that most were “retrenched” (fired) and returned to their home areas unable to work and without access to medical care or legal representation.”
Hausfeld has advised the South African legal team on the subjects of class certification and medical and scientific proof of causation for the occupational diseases of silicosis and tuberculosis suffered by the miners. The class certification hearing will close on October 23, 2015 and Hausfeld expects a class certification decision from the three judge panel in early 2016.