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Supreme Court rejects Astrasol appeal over Latsia cancer cluster

The Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal filed by the attorney-general and Astrasol over the company’s responsibility for creating a cancer cluster in the Latsia area.

The legal wrangling dates back years after 21 employees of the now defunct shoe factory Astrasol filed a class-action lawsuit against owners Sotiris, Maroula and Fivos Liasis, Astrasol Ltd, the liquidator of Liasis Shoelast Company Ltd, the attorney-general for the labour inspection and town planning departments, and Latsia municipality.

The plaintiffs won the case when in December 2017, the court ruled that from 1976 to 2009, the factory created a cancer cluster by using dichloromethane R40 to process its shoe soles, a chemical which has been classified as ‘likely to be carcinogenic in humans’.

The court found fault with both Astrasol and the state, for which the attorney-general bears responsibility.

Sotiris and Maroula Liasis as well as the liquidator and Latsia municipality were absolved of any responsibility.

Fault however, lay with the labour inspection department for failing to carry out waste gas emission tests and for not taking any action to put a stop to the factory after repeated readings showed the levels of dichloromethane were too high to be acceptable, the district court ruled in December 2017.

Responsibility also lay with the town planning department, according to the district court’s decision, for granting Astrasol a license without the factory having a proper planning permit – something it wouldn’t have obtained  due to the high levels of dichloromethane being used.

Nonetheless, the attorney-general as well as Fivos Lasis and Astrasol, who were all found guilty, appealed the court’s decision, with the attorney-general citing 16 reasons for the appeal.

In turn, the plaintiffs filed their own cases with the Supreme Court saying it was too soon for the attorney-general to be appealing as the matter of compensation has yet to be settled.

Although the 21 plaintiffs are seeking compensation, the district court has yet to rule how much each person should receive and judges are pointing fingers at each other on who should make the final call.

This is because the plaintiffs had initially filed separate cases before turning to a class-action lawsuit. 

The Supreme Court unilaterally rejected the appeal citing its agreement with what the plaintiffs argued. The decision will only be up for appeal when the matter of compensation is resolved, it ruled.

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