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Union Carbide Corp. Not Liable for Property Damage From 1984 Bhopal Leak

In the most recent case stemming from the 1984 chemical plant leak in Bhopal, India, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit further clarified the circumstances in which an entity other than the owner or operator of a site may be liable at common law for a chemical release at that site.  See Sahu v. Union Carbide Corporation, No. 14-3087-cv (2d Cir. May 24, 2016).  Plaintiffs claimed property damage from leaks from a waste storage facility at the Union Carbide India Limited (“UCIL”) plant in Bhopal, and sued Union Carbide Corporation (“UCC”), a majority stockholder in UCIL, for nuisance, trespass, strict liability, and negligence.

Plaintiffs argued the trial court, when it granted Defendant’s motion for summary judgment, misapplied the Second Circuit’s “substantial factor” causation standard. The Second Circuit held that proving UCC’s conduct was a “substantial factor” contributing to an injury would require showing UCC had the requisite “knowledge” of the risk and “substantial certainty” of ultimate injury.  The Court noted there is no indication that UCC knew anything about UCIL’s waste handling system or that it might leak, and found that “no reasonable juror could find that UCC participated in the creation of the injury on any theory of liability.”  Slip op. at *8.

This article was written with the assistance of Matthew Schneider.

© 2017 Beveridge & Diamond PC

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About this Author

Daniel M. Krainin, Environmental Attorney, Beveridge Diamond Law Firm
Principal

Daniel M. Krainin is a Principal in the New York office of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C.  He was named to the 2011 and 2012 Super Lawyers list for the New York Metropolitan area, holds an AV Preeminent Peer Review Rating from Martindale-Hubbell, and serves as a Vice Chair of the ABA Environment Section's Environmental Litigation and Toxic Torts Committee.

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Graham C. Zorn, Environmental Law Attorney, Beveridge Diamond Law Firm
Associate

Graham C. Zorn is an Associate in the Washington, D.C. office of Beveridge & Diamond, P.C., with a general litigation, regulatory, and environmental practice.  Graham has represented individual businesses, trade associations, and municipalities in compliance, enforcement, and counseling matters involving the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, CERCLA and other state and federal statutes.  He has worked extensively on a series of complex products liability and toxic tort cases related to alleged groundwater contamination involving a gasoline additive.  Graham has also counseled domestic and international clients on a variety of product compliance, market access, and enforcement matters.  Specifically, Graham is well versed in reporting requirements related to the use of conflict minerals in various electronics, medical devices, and consumer products. 

202-789-6024