An opinion issued by the EU’s top court has found that member states could be held liable for health damage to individuals caused by air pollution.
Advocate General Juliane Kokott was giving her non-binding opinion at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in a case taken by a resident of the Paris region.
He is seeking €2.1 million in compensation from the French state because, he claims, the increasing air pollution in that city area has damaged his health.
He argues that France is liable for that damage because it has not ensured compliance with the pollution limits that apply uniformly throughout the EU.
The Administrative Court of Appeal, Versailles, which is hearing the dispute, had asked the CJEU for its view on whether, and under what conditions, individuals could claim compensation from a state for health damage caused by infringement of the EU limits.
The advocate general said that such infringements of air-quality rules under EU law might give rise
to entitlement to compensation from the state.
Her opinion stated that the EU rules were intended to confer rights on individuals, by protecting their health.
She added, however, that proving a direct causal link between a serious breach of the rules on air quality, and specific damage to health, would pose problems in enforcing claims for compensation.
The injured party would have to prove that he or she had stayed, for a long period of time, in
an environment in which air-quality rules had been breached and would also have to show that the damage to health could be linked to the relevant air pollution in the first place.
Even if these conditions were satisfied, the matter would not end there, the judge stressed.
“Rather, the member state may exonerate itself by proving that such exceedance of the limit values would also have occurred if it had adopted, in good time, air-quality