The U.K.-based plaintiffs firm PGMBM, which operates as a partnership between British, Brazilian and American lawyers, is launching an office in Rio de Janeiro following a significant win for claimants harmed by a dam collapse at a mine co-operated by BHP Inc. in Brazil.
The firm is also changing its name globally, and will now be known as Pogust Goodhead.
The investment in South America will add 20 Brazilian lawyers in the coming weeks and builds on a series of recent U.K. hires, the firm said.
Pogust Goodhead also plans to launch a legal process outsourcing center based in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais to help service clients worldwide. It anticipates that the center will bring over 300 jobs to the area.
“Our Brazilian cases have always been the driving force of the firm and with a new office in Rio we hope to build on the great progress we have made,” said global managing partner and CEO Tom Goodhead.
“Most importantly we want to ensure our clients are given an even better experience and to ultimately ensure we represent their desire for justice, continuing to fight the good fight across all our litigations,” he added.
Pogust Goodhead represents more than 200,000 Brazilians whose lives were upended by a mining disaster nearly a decade ago.
BHP jointly owns the Samarco iron ore complex, where in 2015, tailings—the waste materials left after a target mineral is extracted from ore—spilled into communities in southeastern Brazil, killing more than a dozen people and causing extensive environmental damage.
That case appears on track to be heard in English courts.
In July 2022, a U.K. appellate court overturned an earlier ruling that denied jurisdiction to the English courts to hear the case, with Slaughter and May having argued on behalf of BHP that those impacted by the deadly disaster should pursue claims in Brazil.
Global law firms must tread carefully in Brazil because the bar forbids international lawyers from practicing local law in the country.
In addition to the planned investments in Brazil, Pogust Goodhead is also expanding its capacity for securities litigation through an office opening in San Diego. That California office is headed by Takeo Kellar, a securities litigator who recently joined from Abraham, Fruchter & Twersky.
“As the business continues to grow, it is vital that we make changes to ensure that we have a strong, reliable, and sustainable infrastructure to facilitate our ambitions to transform group litigation globally,” said Goodhead.
The firm has secured a series of high-profile litigation wins over the past 12 months.
In addition to the court victory against BHP, Pogust Goodhead notched a settlement in May on behalf of 15,000 claimants against the Volkswagen Group, and in 2021 it won an award for 16,000 victims of a British Airways data breach.
To help guide its global litigation ambitions, Pogust Goodhead recently recruited two C-suite leaders—Chief Operating Officer Alicia Alinia and Chief Financial Officer Jash Radia—while entering into a partnership and £100 million funding deal with North Wall Capital.