Crime & Court

Service Station Operator Wins In Landmark Environmental Case

TOTAL was ordered to pay $15,000 as costs to the appellant, Ramendra Prasad, who operates a service station in Sawani along Princes Road.
04 Mar 2020 09:46
Service Station Operator Wins In Landmark Environmental Case

In a landmark ruling, the Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of a service station operator against an oil company.

The Court of Appeal panel of Judges, Justice Susantha Lecamwasam, Justice Almeida Guneratne and Justice Farzana Jameel, delivered their unanimous judgment against Total (Fiji) Limited (TOTAL) for environmental negligence.

TOTAL was ordered to pay $15,000 as costs to the appellant, Ramendra Prasad, who operates a service station in Sawani along Princes Road.

The Judges made orders as follows:

  • The appeal be allowed and the judgment of the High Court is set aside;
  • The Registrar is directed to send this matter to the Master for determining the quantum of damages due to the Appellant;
  • The respondent is to pay to the appellant a sum of $5000 as costs in the court below and the sum of $10,000 in this court within 28 days of the judgment.
    Particulars

In September 2007, TOTAL installed a fuel tank with a capacity of 10,000 litres and on July 18, 2008, a fuel leak was detected by Mr Prasad.

Mr Prasad said TOTAL had failed to investigate adequately into the fuel leakage.

After he terminated the contract with the defendant (TOTAL) he obtained the services of BP.

He said TOTAL refused to remove its storage tanks from the land and Mr Prasad had to install the new storage tanks in a less convenient location.

Mr Prasad had appealed against the High Court ruling on the grounds that the learned Judge erred in fact and law by finding that TOTAL was not liable for the full leak ageing from its underground tanks and pipes situation in Mr Prasad’s land.

He had filed a total of six grounds in the appeal.

Mr Prasad contended that the leakage was caused by the careless installation of the ‘T10’ tank.

TOTAL claimed that in November 2008, the Environmental Department directed Mr Prasad to suspend supplying fuel.

TOTAL lawyers submitted that it was due to the order, that it was prevented from supplying fuel to Mr Prasad and that it was not responsible for the losses of Mr Prasad.

The panel of Judges recognised the leakage as a ‘pollution incident’ under Section 50 of the Environment Management Act.

Edited by Ranoba Baoa

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