Key ruling on civil liability by House of Lords

In the most significant judgement in an environmental case for more than a decade, the House of Lords has overturned last year's Court of Appeal decision in the Cambridge Water Company case, and provided an authoritative set of common law principles governing civil liability for damage caused by pollution. The unanimous ruling was initially welcomed by insurers and industry, though a close reading of the judgement suggests that the potential for liability remains high. Nevertheless, the result implies that the common law will have a limited role in dealing with many types of historic contamination, and places greater pressure on the Government to develop effective statutory mechanisms, whether at national or EC level.

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