FrancePenalty for notaries who sold houses on contaminated land
In Lyon (F), two surveys and the seller of the land will pay almost 900,000 euros for a couple. Many defendants knew “absolutely” that the soil was contaminated with solvents.
In France, two notary offices and a seller were jointly and severally ordered by the Lyon Court of Appeal to pay nearly 900,000 euros in compensation to the buyers of a house built on a former contaminated site in Grézieu-la-Varenne (Rhône). Industrial laundry operation.
The Civil Division of the Court of Appeals underlines that the notaries, according to the ruling issued on Thursday, “failed to fulfill their duty to inform and advise the purchaser directly on the origin of the damage”.
Contrary to the ruling of the first instance that acquitted them in October 2021, the Court of Appeal considered that the notaries had not carried out the necessary research, while the old laundry, using solvents and halogenated liquids, was mentioned in a classified database. Installations.
A viscous fluid loaded with hydrocarbons in the field
After the cessation of industrial activities, many real estate activities have taken place on the land which has been converted into a building zone. An inspection by one of the notaries in question, according to the decision, “exactly knew” the content of the site’s industrial activities. The salesman of the same reproach house, the grandson of the founder of the former laundry, was the administrator of one of the structures based on the site.
The affair erupted in 2019, nine years after a couple in their forties took possession of the house after discovering a viscous liquid laden with hydrocarbons during gardening. State services noted very alarming levels of contamination, particularly perchlorethylene and trichlorethylene, two solvents, leading to two emergency evacuations and a temporary ban on drinking water consumption in the district. Further investigations confirmed the presence of chemicals in the basement due to the previous operation of an industrial laundry built in 1959 and closed in 2000.
Is the commune involved?
Therefore, the Court of Appeal awarded damages of almost 900,000 euros along with the estimated cost of cleanup and compensation for moral damage, happiness and anxiety. The case is the subject of six other civil actions, and an “environmental” judicial inquiry opened at the Health and Environment Center of the Court of Marseilles. The judges were surprised by the conditions for modifying the municipality’s land use plan, which made it possible to convert the industrial site into a building zone.
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