Contaminated Land - England

The Court of Appeal has upheld the right to raise a personal injury action on the basis of public nuisance in a contaminated land case.

A group of people born with arm deformities, who claim that their deformities resulted from their mothers living close to contaminated land and being exposed to toxic materials, have won a court battle en route to their claim for damages.

During the 1980's Corby Borough Council acquired contaminated land from the British Steel Corporation with a view to reclamation and redevelopment.

It is alleged, by the claimants, that toxic materials in the form of dust and vapours escaped from the site during the reclamation and redevelopment work and caused their deformities.

The claimants' action initially proceeded on the basis of negligence alone. However, the claimants subsequently added breach of statutory duty under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 and public nuisance to their points of claim, and it was on this addition that the case focussed.

The Council applied to the court to strike out the claim in public nuisance, arguing that, as a matter of law, damages for personal injury cannot be recovered for public nuisance.

However the court held that this wasn't the case, and that it was a long established principle of law that damages can be claimed in public nuisance cases. It refused to strike out the claim in public nuisance, stating that it could not be said that the claim had no real prospect of success.

A High Court hearing of the group's claim is due to take place in 2009.
The full text of the Court of Appeal judgement is available via the link.

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