In 2006, Israel enacted a Class Action Law. The Law sets forth uniform rules regarding submission and management of such actions
The guidelines provided by the Law were designed to:
- Guarantee the right of access to court for all segments of the population, especially for those individuals or groups who would normally have difficulty claiming as individuals.
- Protect the rights of the plaintiffs in such actions.
- Provide a fair hearing.
- Provide competent legal representation.
Between 2006-2011 more than a dozen “environmental” class actions were filed to Court, some were declined, some were settled, but none of the said class actions were approved.
In March 2012 the first environmental class action was approved. The claim was filed by citizens of Atlit (a city in the north of Israel) against Carmel Chemicals, claiming that strong odors emanating from the factory were causing an unreasonable environmental hazard.
Plaintiffs argued that the smell emanated from the factory which produces plastics, resins, adhesives and cardboard, causing the residents of Atlit, the residents living near the plant and those who frequently rode the nearby train, a health hazard, due to the strong odor emanations.
The defendant argued that Carmel Chemicals abided by the standards established for odor control and fulfilled all the requirements demanded by the authorities. They further argued that since no deviations from the standards were found, there was no reason for Carmel Chemicals to be punished for Plaintiffs’ “sensitive sense of smell”.
Plaintiffs responded that despite the fact that the factory met all legal and environmental standards, they were still entitled to be awarded damages for noxious odors.
In its decision, the Court accepted Plaintiff’s allegation, as according to an expert it appointed, there were maintenance failures in the factory including safety measures relating to the treatment of the chemicals that was neglected.
The court found that even when the damage sustained differs from one person to another, the class action may serve as a response to the factory failure.
Thus the court ruled that compensation should be awarded for the inconvenience suffered by the residents and ordered the factory to finance the restoration of the nearby forest that was damaged in a fire (at a cost of approximately $140,000) plus the legal fees and expenses on the part of the defendants.