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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.

© 2020 Beveridge & Diamond PC National Law Review, Volume VI, Number 218

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Daniel M. Krainin Environmental Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond New York, NY
Principal

Dan deploys more than two decades of environmental litigation experience to resolve clients’ legal and business challenges.

Primarily focused on environmental and toxic tort litigation, Dan helps clients successfully resolve groundwater contamination, hazardous waste site remediation, natural resource damages, permit defense and product-related matters. He enjoys using his skills as a litigator to help clients solve environmental problems.

Among his many wins, Dan successfully led a team that defeated an emergency challenge to a permit that Dan’s client needed to continue its...

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Graham C. Zorn Environmental, Toxic Tort, Products Liability Litigation Attorney Beveridge & Diamond Washington, DC
Principal

Graham Zorn focuses his practice on environmental, toxic tort, and products liability litigation.

His representative experience includes extensive work on a series of complex products liability and toxic tort cases related to alleged groundwater, and litigation over lead in drinking water. He has represented individual businesses, trade associations, and municipalities in litigation, as well as in compliance, enforcement, and counseling matters involving the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, CERCLA and other state and federal environmental statutes. He also counsels domestic and international clients on a variety of product compliance, market access, and enforcement matters. In particular, he is well versed in reporting requirements related to conflict mineral use in electronics, medical devices, and consumer products.

Graham obtained his law degree from Vermont Law School where he was a Head Notes Editor for the Vermont Law Review and a student clinician in the Environment and Natural Resources Law Clinic. During law school, he clerked at the Wisconsin Department of Justice in the Environmental Protection Unit where he assisted in defending state agencies in a citizen suit alleging Clean Air Act new source review violations.

Before law school, Graham worked on domestic social policy, with a focus on health care, and environment and energy policy for U.S. Senator Russ Feingold. He obtained his undergraduate degree from Carleton College with a major in Geology. 

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