Canadian Court: OK to Sue Smelly (Yet Legal) Polluters

The Quebec Supreme Court decided Thursday to allow for lawsuits against companies emitting particularly odorous pollution can be sued even if the emissions are under the legal limit.

The ruling stemmed from a 1994 class action lawsuit covering 2,000 people near Quebec City who complained about the dust and smell of a local cement plant for nearly 50 years. The justices ruled that while there was no evidence of legal wrong-doing by the cement plant, they still must “based on the annoyances suffered by the victim being excessive, rather than on the conduct of the person who allegedly caused them.”[social_buttons]

“Even though it appears to be absolute, the right of ownership has limits,” reads the 6-0 decision, adding that the plaintiffs “do not require evidence of wrongful conduct to establish the liability of an owner who has caused excessive neighborhood annoyances.”

The ruling promises to be a strong tool for those working for environmental justice within Quebec and possibly other parts of Canada.

“It is going to make it much easier for citizens to make environmental-nuisance complaints,” said Will Amos, a lawyer for the group Ecojustice. “They are not going to have to prove fault or wrongdoing. They have only to prove that an abnormal annoyance occurred. That is absolutely critical.”

Photo Credit: Tierecke on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

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