Love Canal

480 Words2 Pages
Love Canal There are some important legal aspects to the Love Canal case. Many civil actions or torts were brought against Hooker/Occidental during and after the Love Canal incident. By nineteen-eighty, Occidental faced over two billion dollars in lawsuits mainly from Love Canal but also from violations in other parts of the country. Assets would be sold off and all the people would only get a little bit of money and the government would be stuck with the cleanup. This two billion dollar figure includes all the punitive damage cases brought about by individuals as well as the lawsuits filed by the federal, state, and city officials. Much of these figures were purposely inflated so when they were negotiated down the plaintiffs would still get a reasonable amount of money. This figure also included both punitive and compensatory damages. The courts eventually found that Occidental was liable for only compensatory damages. Occidental was not held accountable for punitive damages because a federal court judge found that they had not acted with "reckless or wanton disregard of safety or rights". This is one of the standards that must be proved along with negligence to continue with punitive damage lawsuits. This decision also lowered the amount of the lawsuits considerably so Occidental could afford to pay some of the damages. Companies are normally held to strict liability when it comes too toxic dumping. This means if the chemicals are there illegally than it is the company who is responsible for them. In this case the company is at least partly responsible but the school board and city of Niagara Falls also acted negligently. Why then weren't they sued as well? The answer lies in the deep pockets theory of torts. This theory says sue the biggest company with the most money. Since toxic dumping is held in strict liability, Hooker admitted putting the chemicals there, and they have a lot of money, they were the perfect target for all the huge lawsuits that followed. Another important legal concept involved in this case is the slippery slope idea. This is an important motivator for government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to regulate pollutants and force companies in violation to clean up their act. This concept basically says if you give an inch they take a mile.

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