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News: No time bar is applicable for environmental damage claims in Brazil

01 May 2020

Our correspondent Representaçóes Proinde reports that the Brazilian Federal Supreme Court has established by majority of votes in the plenary session that 'the claim for civil reparation of environmental damage is imprescriptible'.

According to the Brazilian Federal Constitution, the environment is a collective asset to be preserved for the sake of present and future generations. Therefore, civil and criminal liabilities arise when conducts or activities are considered harmful for the environment. Criminal law establishes up to five years of prison, and up to BRL 50 million (USD 9.2 million) fine imposed by maritime authorities for anyone wilfully or culpability causing pollution. Also, civil liability may arise against anyone that contributes directly or indirectly to the pollution including shipowners, crew members and maritime operators through sanctions brought to federal courts by civil prosecutors on behalf of the Brazilian society.

However, it was uncertain when discussing the applicable time bar for any environmental claim. While some lawyers argue that the general civil reparation of three years’ time bar applies, doctrine and jurisprudence defend that no time bar should apply as environment is fundamental and essential to sustain life that affects all the society.  

The plenary session of the Supreme Court held last 16th April 2020, answering the matter of general repercussion proposed by an extraordinary appeal, supports the previous judgement of the Superior Court of Justice that has recurrently ruled that no time bar should apply to any environmental claim.

Brazil is not part of the International Oil Pollution Compensation funds (IOPC funds), neither has ratified the 1969 Convention on Civil Liability of Oil Pollution damage (CLC).
We thank our correspondent Representaçóes Proinde for this important update.​