High Court Judgment Examines Causation, Quantum, and Contribution in ENRC v Dechert Case

Citation: [2023] EWHC 3280 (Comm)
Judgment on


The High Court of Justice has rendered a judgment in the case of Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation Limited v Dechert LLP & Anor, which offers a fascinating insight into the complexities of legal responsibility, causation, quantum of damages, and apportionment of contribution between multiple defendants. This article examines the legal principles applied in the case, scrutinizing the court’s approach to establishing the causal link between the defendants’ breaches of duty and the claimant’s losses, assessing quantum, and determining the appropriate contribution between co-defendants.

Key Facts

Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation Limited (ENRC) claimed that Dechert LLP and Mr. Gerrard breached contractual, tortious, and fiduciary duties, causing ENRC substantial financial losses. The claims against the Director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) were based on the tort of inducement to breach of contract and misfeasance in public office, arguing that the SFO had encouraged these breaches. The court had to consider whether the SFO’s and Dechert LLP’s conduct led to ENRC’s unnecessary legal fees, third-party costs, and wasted management time (WMT), as well as whether it was the cause of ENRC’s decision to launch a criminal investigation (CI).


The court underscored that for the tort of inducement, there must be a causative link connecting the inducement and the commission of the breach. The ruling reinforced that in cases involving concurrent and cumulative wrongs, a “but for” test may not suffice; instead, courts may take a common-sense approach, acknowledging that each wrongful act can concurrently contribute to the overall loss.

Quantum of Damages

In assessing the quantum, the judgment highlighted the need for a broad-brush approach, recognizing the court’s discretion to estimate losses when precision is unattainable. Key to this assessment is considering what work was “necessary” and what was “unnecessary” and, consequently, should not have incurred costs.


The Civil Liability (Contribution) Act 1978 mandates a just and equitable distribution of responsibility for the damage between liable parties. The court must consider the severity of the breaches and their relevance in causing the loss when determining each party’s share of contribution.

Exemplary Damages

The court reaffirmed that exemplary damages, as a remedy for oppressive, arbitrary, or unconstitutional actions by servants of the government, are awarded only in extreme cases where ordinary compensatory damages are inadequate. The judgment confirmed that such damages are reserved for egregious misuses of power by state officials and are not suitable for mere opportunistic breaches of duty.


The court determined that the SFO and Dechert LLP’s wrongdoing were effective causes of the financial losses claimed by ENRC. It was adjudged that absent the co-defendant’s wrongful conduct, the SFO would not have initiated the CI. The judgment also stipulated that compensation for unnecessary legal fees, costs, and WMT should be substantial, albeit less than the amount claimed by ENRC. For contribution, the responsibility between Dechert LLP and the SFO was apportioned at 75% and 25% respectively for unnecessary costs and WMT, while Dechert LLP bore 100% responsibility for unnecessary work done. Exemplary damages were denied, with the court noting the compensatory awards sufficed as a deterrent, concluding that the SFO’s conduct, while seriously flawed, did not rise to the level warranting such damages.


The Eurasian Natural Resources Corporation Limited v Dechert LLP & Anor case elucidates the imperative of establishing a direct causal link between the defendant’s wrongful actions and the plaintiff’s losses in claims of tortious conduct. The court’s decision illuminates the nuanced considerations involved in apportioning liability, quantifying damages, and assessing the necessity for exemplary damages. The judgment serves as a significant reference point for legal professionals navigating similar disputes involving breaches of duty and the careful calibration required in ascertaining fair restitution.