Astrasol cancer victims await compensation verdict

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Cancer patients vindicated in their case against Astrasol, the shoe sole manufacturers they sued over toxic cancerous gas emissions, are waiting for the Supreme Court to decide their appeals submitted in March.

Sufferers sued Astrasol, in Latsia, Nicosia, in 2017, in what might be the only case globally where a court accepted the substance Dichloromethane (DCM) is a cancer hazard.

The factory operated from 1976 to 2009, while a first instance court accepted that 45 people died from cancer caused by its emissions.

In 2008, inhabitants had counted 52 cancer cases in just one street near the factory.

However, despite the moral satisfaction the plaintiffs may have felt from this recognition, they felt the amounts awarded in compensation were derisory for victims needing expensive cancer treatment.

In December 2017, the court returned a guilty verdict for Astrasol, Fivos Liasis, one of the directors, and the state via the attorney-general (on behalf of the labour inspection department, the ministry of health and the town planning department).

The government departments were deemed responsible for allowing the factory to continue operating without the necessary permits and not taking steps to mitigate the toxic emissions.

Compensations were awarded in 2019, with plaintiffs filing objections, claiming they were unsatisfactory.

The highest compensation, some €200,000, was given to the family of a three-year-old girl who died of brain cancer.

The other victims’ families were awarded compensations between €50,000 and €100,000.

Representing the plaintiffs, lawyer Loukis Loucaides, in a letter to the President of the Supreme Court, requested the appeal be expedited.

The hearing of the appeals took place on March 10.

Loucaides said these people have suffered, while some died from cancer, leaving their also suffering relatives behind.

He notes that the court of the first instance vindicated the appellants; however, they appealed to the Supreme Court, considering the damages awarded to them as insufficient. The Attorney General also filed a counter-appeal regarding the issue of the awarded damages.

It is noted that while the final decision of the Court of Appeal is pending, the affected parties are being dragged through the District Court of Nicosia for legal fees by the Municipality of Latsia and the office of the Official Receiver after they were acquitted of liability regarding the deaths or the cancer cases.