Carbide Agrees to Settle Bhopal Suits
DANBURY, Conn. (AP) _ Union Carbide Corp. has tentatively agreed to pay $350 million to settle damage and injury claims from the chemical leak in Bhopal, India, that killed more than 2,000 people, a company spokesman said Sunday.
But a lawyer for the Indian government, Bruce Finzen, said the government might not accept the tentative settlement being worked out between lawyers for Carbide and individual victims of the December 1984 gas leak.
The agreement ″was worked out with some of the most prominent of the plaintiffs’ lawyers in the United States,″ said Harvey Cobert, Carbide media relations manager.
″In light of the government of India’s desire to have a settlement based on U.S. standards, it would appear that these objectives can now be achieved,″ he said, adding that ″$350 million paid over a period of time will produce a fund for the victims of between $500 million and $600 million.″
The agreement must still be approved by U.S. District Judge John F. Keenan in New York and the company’s board of directors, he said.
Cobert added that the agreement can’t be concluded until Carbide is ″satisfied that the claims arising from the Bhopal incident can be resolved with finality.″
The New York Times reported Sunday that the agreement could become final in six months, and quoted unnamed sources as saying it would cover anyone injured in the leak whether they sued the company or not.
But Finzen said Sunday that the government might not support the settlement if it does not satisfy the government’s guidelines for compensating all the victims.
″The government has neither agreed to nor is it a party to any settlement,″ Finzen said. ″The government’s position has always been that we prefer to settle the litigation, but that any settlement must be fair and adequate and provide full compensation for every victim.″
Ronald Wishart, Carbide’s vice president of public affairs, said the tentative settlement should convince the Indian government that ″that’s the best they’re going to get.″
The leak occurred Dec. 2-3, 1984, at a central India plant that was producing methyl isocyanate, a pesticide ingredient. More than 200,000 people were injured in what was called history’s worst industrial disaster.
The Times said the Indian government, which wanted nearly $1 billion in damages, is not part of the tentative settlement.
The newspaper quoted some of its sources as saying India and individual victims might be able to sue Carbide separately, but they said it would be difficult for another Bhopal plaintiff to win after a settlement has been reached for the entire class of victims.