The Appellant Mr Ramendra Prasad, operating a TOTAL fuel station along Princes Road, Fiji, noticed fuel leaking from out of the ground and flowing into the roadside drain leading towards the Rewa River. All the underground fuel tanks were owned, maintained and supplied by TOTAL, a subsidiary of Total S.A, a French multinational integrated oil and gas company which is known as one of the seven "super major" oil companies in the world.
Mr. Prasad notified the defendant Total about the leakage but they failed to fix the leak. The defendant denied the claim of leakage and counterclaimed for damages. The Fiji Department of Environment investigated the fuel leak and stopped the supply of fuel to the service station. The claimant alleges the cause of damage was due to the negligence of the defendant. Despite the scientific evidence and the investigation conducted by the Department of Environment the High Court ordered the dismissal of the action and ordered the claimant to pay the defendant a total of $15,000 as cost of the action.
The case was appealed to the Court of Appeal whereby the decision of the High Court was set aside since scientific evidence had proved a significant underground fuel leak and that the defendant’s negligence had caused a pollution incident that it was liable for in this case.
The court of appeal in its ruling reflected upon the provisions of the Environment Management Act on the basis of polluter pays principle to act as a deterrent and taking into account the significance of human life, as well as the environment. Moreover, that the court must take cognizance of the pollution incident so that the language and the spirit of protections given under the Act are effective.
The Court of Appeal in conclusion determined that several heads of damages must be assessed by the High Court of Fiji in accordance with the evidence, the law of negligence, and the Environment Management Act, 2005. Furthermore, the defendant was ordered to pay a total of $15,000 as cost within 28 days.