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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2009

Case 2 - Sudden incident

from Part A - Scope of liable persons


A runs an industrial plant that has no adverse effects on the environment, but poses an imminent threat to the environment in case of a breakdown. Due to a breakdown, B suffers loss of, or damage to, property. Fault cannot be established.

Is A liable to B? Would there be any difference if B had suffered loss of life or personal injury?

What would liability be like if the polluting effects cause minor health and/or property damage to the majority of the people living in the community?

Is A liable to B if the damage was caused by unusual circumstances, such as an act of war, hostilities, civil war, insurrection or a natural disaster?

Is A liable to B if the damage was caused by an act done by a third party with the intent to cause damage?

Is A liable to B if the damage resulted necessarily from compliance with a specific order or compulsory measure of a public authority?

Is A liable to B if B has, by his own fault, contributed to the damage?

Comparative remarks


Sudden incident

In most countries (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, Spain and Sweden), the outcome is the same, whether damage is caused by a sudden incident due to a breakdown or by continuous interference. In Germany, however, the victim cannot rely on § 906 BGB and § 22(1) WHG, which relate to continuous interference only.

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