On 22 October 2015, the Paris Civil Court ("Tribunal de
grande instance de Paris") handed down a judgment
concerning environmental exposure to asbestos which could pave the
way towards compensation of neighbours of industrial sites.
Originally, the dispute, which related to depollution issues,
had arisen between the company S.A. Comptoir de Minéraux et
Matières Premières ("CMMP"), a former
operator of an asbestos and zircon grinding plant, and the
purchasers of this industrial site located in Aulnay-sous-Bois.
Three associations (l'Association Départementale
de Défense des Victimes de l'Amiante 93, Ban Asbestos
France and l'Association Aulnay Environnement) intervened
voluntarily in the proceedings, arguing that the operator had
delayed the site's depollution. Each requested damages
amounting to €10,000 on the ground of non-pecuniary loss.
The Court recognised that the associations' intervention was
legitimate, on the grounds that they "were in charge of
asbestos victims' collective interest" and that they
had "an interest in claiming damages for non-pecuniary
loss potentially caused by breaches in the treatment of
asbestos", regardless of the fact that "the
current litigation [was] related to contracts which they [were not]
The CMMP was alleging in response to the associations'
arguments that "the surrounding air [had not] been
contaminated, and that the associations [had] burdened, and, as a
result, slowed down depollution operations, that there [was] no
causal link between the damages sought and the alleged
The Court rejected these arguments and judged, on the contrary,
that the CMMP had violated its depollution obligations over at
least 17 years, from the cessation of the CMMP's activity to
the site's remediation, and that "this misconduct had
caused a non-pecuniary loss to the associations that should be
valued, for each, at €1".
Although financial consequences resulting from the
associations' intervention in this dispute are almost
non-existent, it must be concluded that the Court's position is
likely to open the way to compensation of neighbours of industrial
sites in the event of an environmental exposure to asbestos
triggered by a professional activity.
This ruling is undoubtedly objectionable on more than one
ground. Indeed, as surrounding contamination had not been proven,
there was, clearly in this case, neither any misconduct nor
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