The UK Court of Appeal has upheld a High Court ruling that limits the level of damages claimants may seek in follow-on cartel cases. This case arose from a 2005 lawsuit brought by Devenish Nutrition Ltd., seeking damages from members of the “vitamins cartel”, which the European Commission condemned in 2001. Devenish purchased vitamins from the defendants during the time period in which the cartel operated and, using the Commission’s 2001 decision as proof of an infringement, sought damages in the UK High Court.
As well as actual damages, Devenish also sought full restitution and exemplary damages. The High Court, however, ruled that claimants seeking an award in a follow-on cartel case are limited to actual provable damages. The Court of Appeal affirmed, ruling that a claimant may be compensated for any actual loss it incurred because of the cartel’s activity, but no more than that. This decision clarifies that defendants’ liability in follow-on damages actions is limited to compensatory damages, which is also likely to reduce the risk of duplicative recovery. At the same time, this ruling may also reduce incentives for potential claimants to bring cases in the United Kingdom, given that their possible award will be limited to actual, provable losses.