A full bench in the High Court in Johannesburg has allowed mining companies the right to challenge the transfer of damages to the widows and children of mineworkers who died of TB or silicosis.
This could possibly limit claims the companies faced for compensation if a class action against them were successful.
On Friday the court granted mining companies leave to appeal against a finding amending the common law in respect of general damages claims. But it rejected the appeal against the silicosis class action certification judgment.
After argument in court on Thursday, judgment was delivered on Friday on behalf of the full bench by Deputy Judge President Phineas Mojapelo.
The court said mining companies would not be allowed to appeal a decision by the court that allowed a class action case to proceed for compensation for mineworkers who had contract ed TB and silicosis.
The silicosis class action suit and the TB class action suit will proceed.
The mining companies implicated are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Gold Fields, Harmony and Sibanye Gold.
Chamber of Mines spokesman Alan Fine said the mining companies were still considering the judgment.
The silicosis class action suit, if it goes ahead and is successful, will cost mining companies billions in compensation for sufferers of silicosis and TB. The class action suit will be the first in the mining industry and could consist of about 50 000 claimants.
If the mining companies win the case in the Supreme Court of Appeal to limit damage claims, the families of men who have died since 2012 cannot claim for injuries and damages on behalf of the deceased.
Georgina Jephson, a lawyer at Richard Spoor Attorneys who is close to the case, said: “We can continue with the class ac tion. It doesn’t affect the class action, but it will if we get to the stage of damages.”
She said, however, that the case was “quite far from that”.
Jephson said that if the mining companies won the case in the appeal court, the lawyers representing the mineworkers would have to take the judgment to the Constitutional Court.
She said that if the mining companies lost in the appeal court, there would be more dam ages claims available for the dependants of men who had died since 2012.
The mining companies might then go to the Constitutional Court for further appeal.