On Nov 5th, the students of Professor Kathinka Furst’s Environmental Law course became the Mock Court of DKU. The Mock Court held a trial hearing regarding Fan Lijuan vs. Liyang Tianshan Cement Company and Zhongcai Environmental Protection Company. The goal of this simulation is to help students understand one of the dispute resolution paths and its difficulties. Students are learning from this real-life case by practicing it in mock court.
Fan Lijuan, a villager who lives in Xiazhuang County of Jiangsu Province, filed a lawsuit against Liyang Tianshan Cement Company and Zhongcai Environmental Protection Company for producing noise and air pollution. Fan argues the pollution has jeopardized her health both physically and mentally and is seeking financial compensation as reparation for the damages from the two companies.
Quick facts of the case
Villager Fan, the Plaintiff, is one of the villagers who still lives near the two defendants’ factories, Liyang Tianshan Cement Company (Cement Company) and Liyang Zhongcai Environmental Protection Company (Environmental Protection Company).
In March 2016, Fan filed a case against the defendants, claiming the two companies produced excessive noise and air pollution and have caused damage to her health. Fan asked the court to order the defendants to immediately eliminate the pollution and restore the environment. Fan requested CNY 50,000 as compensation for health damage, an apology from the defendants, and coverage of all the litigation costs.
Records show that the Cement Company started its production in 2007 and obtained its spell out EIA (EIA) at the end of 2008. The cement company has violated the Industrial Noise Standard before, and the Environmental Protection Bureau has warned it to implement rectification measures. As for the Environmental Protection Company, it started the operation in 2011 and also received the EIA approval opinion and other governmental documents.
Based on the pre-investigation by our reporter, we found that the Environmental Impact Assessment of the Cement Company stated all the residents within a 500 meter radius of the factory should be resettled by the production. However, we are unclear about why Fan failed to be relocated outside of this range.
Briefly, we summarized the arguments of this case would be:
- Have the two defendants jointly and/or separately caused pollution?
- Has the plaintiff, Fan, suffered any harm/infringement(s) as a result of the activities conducted by the defendant?
- If so, what is the link and/or causality between the conducted behavior of the two defendants and the harm/infringement(s) on Fan? What evidence is needed to, beyond reasonable doubt, prove that such a causal link is/was present?
- How should the Court rule on the claims/requests made by the plaintiff?
Opinions from the parties
The Liyang court accepted the case in April 2017. We interviewed the attorney XIE of the plaintiff and the attorney LIU of the Environmental Protection Company before this trial. XIE said they were fully prepared for the case and had provided strong evidence to the court. LIU said that the evidence provided by Fan was groundless and they believed in justice of the court. Judge MAO stated that the court would strictly follow the Tort Law and relevant law to make final judgement.
The plaintiff’s attorney showed evidence of her client’s incurred damages during the trial. However, as our reporter stated from interviewing environmental legal professionals, there is difficulty proving Fan’s claim regarding her actual mental harm, because the causation between her mental distress and the noise pollution by two companies needs more ground.
The defendant provides data that defends the two companies. The defendant claimed that the court shall take this reality into consideration. (Is this a caption for the picture?)
The mock court ruled that measures should be taken to reduce noise pollution by the two defendants and they must compensate Fan 5,000 CNY. In addition, the defendants must apologize to the plaintiff for the inconvenience and infringements. The court rejects the other claims.
Since environmental law was revised in 2015, it can be presumed that more legal disputes will be tried in court in the coming years. There are difficulties in providing legal support to environmental victims. Even in this case, the court can only mandate financial compensation for the litigation costs of the plaintiff.