Polluter Pays, Licences, Causation, Inspections, Evidence, Liability, Remedies, Contract, Damages, Jurisdiction
This case related to the illegal disposal of hazardous clinical waste in an unauthorised landfill. The judge upheld the principle that the 'polluter pays'. He interpreted it so strictly that orders were made against the two directors of the waste company personally. The landowner, the waste operator and the two directors were joined in the proceedings and, although it was attempted, the hospitals that produced the waste were not joined because of a legal technicality. The High Court ruled that if the clean-up costs were not met out of the Company’s resources it would make a fall-back order fixing the individual Directors with those costs. The Court stressed the primacy (over traditional corporate law principles such as the separate corporate personality rule) of core Environmental Law principles, and in that regard specifically mentioned the Polluter Pays Principle. The High Court relied on the original European Community definition of “polluter” (for the purpose of the Polluter Pays Principle) - as meaning anybody who “directly or indirectly creates the conditions leading to environmental pollution” and the Court, in Fenton, emphasised that that covered the individual directors in that particular Case based on their state of knowledge of the wrongdoing. The High Court, held both Mr. Fenton and the waste company liable for the remediation of the site, and held the two directors of the company personally responsible in the event that the company would be unable to provide sufficient funds to remediate the site. This was the case even where those held responsible did not know that the waste which had been disposed was hazardous waste. The Court, in this case, did not find the truck driver who had deposited the waste responsible since, according to the Court he was an independent contractor working for the company and it was for the company to ensure that he acted properly. The Court also declined to find the hospitals who had supplied the waste liable as they were not the immediate and real cause of the pollution.