Court absolves Union Carbide of liability in Bhopal tragedy

Bhopal

In a setback to the victims of the Bhopal gas tragedy, a US court has held that neither Union Carbide nor its former chairman Warren Anderson were liable for environmental remediation or pollution-related claims emanating from the world's worst industrial accident.

US District Judge John Keena in Manhattan dismissed a lawsuit accusing the company of causing soil and water pollution around the Bhopal plant due to the disaster, and ruled that Union Carbide Corporation (UCC) and Anderson were not liable for remediation or pollution-related claims.

The court ruled that it was Union Carbide India Ltd, and not its parent company UCC that was responsible for the generation and disposal of the waste that polluted drinking water, and the liability rests with the state government.

Plaintiffs Janki Bai Sahu and others had alleged that "toxic substances seeped into a ground aquifer, polluting the soil and drinking water supply in residential communities surrounding the former Bhopal Plant site".

They alleged that exposure to soil and drinking water polluted by hazardous waste produced Union Carbine India Ltd caused injuries.

"The summary judgement record certainly indicates that UCIL consulted with UCC about its waste disposal plans and on non-environmental business matter like its strategic plan. However, nothing in the evidence suggests the necessity of UCC's approval for the actions about which plaintiffs complain," the court said in its order.

"Moreover, there is no evidence in this extensive record indicating that UCIL manufactured pesticides on UCC's behalf, entered into contracts or other business dealings on UCC's behalf, or otherwise acted in UCC's name," it said.

In his written opinion, Judge Keenan concluded that -- even when viewing the evidence in the most favourable light for the plaintiffs -- UCC is not directly liable, nor liable as an agent of UCIL, nor liable under a veil-piercing analysis.

... contd.

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