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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 March, 2003, 11:03 GMT
US dismisses Bhopal lawsuit
Graffiti in Bhopal, India
Bhopal's victims are still seeking compensation
A US court has dismissed a lawsuit against Union Carbide and its former chief executive for damages from the 1984 Bhopal gas leak in India which killed and maimed thousands.

A New York federal judge said the company had done enough and too much time had passed.

"Union Carbide has met its obligations to clean up the contamination in or near the Bhopal plant," US District Judge John F Keenan said.

"Having sold their shares long ago and having no connection to or authority over the plaint, they cannot be held responsible at this time," he added.

Judge Keenan also rejected civil claims against former chief executive Warren Anderson.

About 4,000 people died in the immediate aftermath of the leak in December 1984, and more than 14,000 have died from related illnesses since.

Union Carbide has accepted moral responsibility for the disaster, but blamed it on sabotage by a disaffected employee.

'Hospital is enough'

Union Carbide paid $470m in an out-of-court settlement in 1989 that guaranteed the company's executives immunity from prosecution.

After the deal, India's supreme court overruled the immunity clause of the settlement.

Judge Keenan also took into consideration that Union Carbide sold its 50.9% stake in the Bhopal pesticide plant in 1994 and used the proceeds to build a hospital there.

"This contribution goes far to satisfy any further obligation defendants have to citizens of Bhopal," he said.

The suit was filed by a woman claiming damages after moving to within a few hundred metres of the plant, then falling sick after drinking contaminated ground water.

Judge Keenan said the statute of limitations had expired for the plaintiff.

Dow Chemical acquired Union Carbide in 2001.

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