View of a thermal station in the distance above the clouds, columns of smoke, ecology idea

Supreme Court Must Revisit Ostrava Woman’s Claim For Compensation Over Air Pollution

Ostrava’s Radvanice-Bartovice district, which has long been unable to observe legal limits of carcinogenic substances in the air. Photo credit: Freepik (Illustrative photo). 

Brno, Feb 8 (CTK) – The Czech Constitutional Court has upheld a complaint from a woman who unsuccessfully claimed financial compensation for health damage caused to her by air pollution, and ordered that the case be heard again by the Supreme Court, which previously rejected the woman’s claim.

The woman is a resident of Ostrava’s Radvanice-Bartovice district, which has long been unable to observe legal limits of carcinogenic substances in the air, such as benzo(a)pyrene and concentrated dust particles. In her complaint, the woman emphasised that she had fallen ill with lung cancer, and her husband had died from cancer. She demanded CZK 1.44 million in compensation.

After last week’s intervention by the Constitutional Court, announced by the law firm Frank Bold on Twitter on Wednesday, the Supreme Court will have to deal with the case again.

After the Czech accession to the EU in 2004, the Environment Ministry was bound to draft national action plans and programs for improving the quality of air, including effective measures to meet the relevant legal limits. The plaintiff told the court that this did not happen. 

The legal dispute was previously dealt with by district and regional courts, which upheld the woman’s argument that the Environment Ministry acted wrongly by failing to adopt an air improvement program in time, and that the woman suffered non-material harm by falling ill with cancer and seeing her husband die. Nevertheless, the courts dismissed her complaint, arguing that she failed to prove a causal relationship between the state’s inaction and the damage she suffered.

The Constitutional Court has now upheld her objections and returned the case to the Supreme Court, which previously denied her petition for an appellate review and rejected it as inadmissible. This decision was at variance with the woman’s legal rights, the Constitutional Court ruled.

“The Supreme Court should deal with the petition in terms of the content [of the dispute],” said Frank Bold lawyer Pavel Cerny. “Above all, it should focus on whether the submitted epidemiological study confirms the causal relationship between the damage to the woman’s health and the wrong actions on the part of the state bodies.” 

Air pollution in the Moravia-Silesia Region, of which Ostrava is the capital, has for a long time been the worst in the Czech Republic, influenced by local industry, transport, household heating, and also harmful substances carried by wind from nearby Poland.

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