U.S. court rules in favour of Union Carbide

A New York court struck what appeared to be a deathblow to the case brought by victims of the 1984 poison gas disaster in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, when it ruled in favour of the defendant, the Union Carbide Corporation (UCC), finding that the company could not be sued for ongoing contamination from the chemical plant.

In the  Sahu II case plaintiffs EarthRights International said that they had presented the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York with evidence that a UCC employee, Lucas John Couvaras, managed the construction of the plant.

Despite this District Judge John Keenan ruled, “The manufacturing processes and waste disposal systems to be implemented at the Bhopal Plant were all initially proposed by UCIL (Union Carbide India Limited)… [and thus] defendant UCC's motion for summary judgment is granted [and] plaintiffs' motions relating to the deposition of Couvaras are denied.”

The Bhopal gas tragedy, considered India’s worst industrial disaster, occurred on December 2 1984 at the UCIL pesticide plant and in its wake many thousands of people were injured from exposure to methyl isocyanate gas and other chemicals and several thousands were killed.

While EarthRights International said that they were “confident [that evidence surrounding Couvaras’ role] will lead to a reversal of the erroneous decision on appeal,” Judge Keenan further ruled that the Government of Madhya Pradesh would also not be held liable for a clean-up of contamination at the site of the disaster.

The judge said, “Because I conclude that there is no basis to hold UCC liable for Plaintiffs’ damage, there will be no court-ordered cleanup in this action, and thus, no basis for enjoining Madhya Pradesh.”

However Marco Simons, counsel for the plaintiffs and Legal Director for EarthRights International said, “The evidence demonstrates that Union Carbide was intimately involved in every aspect of designing and building the Bhopal plant, including the waste disposal systems that caused the pollution.”

He added, “The court's decision discounted this evidence, and it depends entirely on assuming that the manager who oversaw the construction of the Bhopal plant - who said he worked for Union Carbide – didn’t really know who he worked for.”

Although  The Hindu reached out to UCC for a response no comments were received at the time this report went to print.

However responding to a discussion of evidence in  Sahu II earlier this year UCC spokesman, Tomm Sprick, said in an email to The Hindu a that the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals had recently dismissed “a nearly identical case” against UCC, Sahu I.

Further, Mr. Sprick said that the Court stated that documents created at the time events took place established conclusively that “no reasonable juror could find that UCC participated in the creation of the contaminated drinking water.”

The plaintiffs intend to appeal Wednesday’s decision and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the appeal, has previously reversed several prior dismissals of cases against UCC, EarthRights International stated.

On June 28 2012 Judge Keenan sided with UCC’s erstwhile CEO Warren Anderson in denying that he faced any individual liability because he did not personally approve the location of the Bhopal plant.

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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 10:01:01 AM |

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