Lawsuits and decisions

The landmark decision of the European Court of Justice from 2008 confirmed the enforceable “Right to clean air” for all EU citizens.

There were a few successful lawsuits in Hungary that influenced the national legal situation.

1. Compensation for damages

Case of Road 86: compensation for damages of road traffic.

A couple sued the road operator and maintenance company in 2007 for failing to implement measures to prevent heavy duty road traffic causing health and property damages. This test case was successful. The Hungarian Supreme Court affirmed the previous verdict of the Győr-Moson-Sopron County Court on the financial compensation of two residents who suffer from the heavy duty traffic on road no. 86 in the western part of Hungary. Several dozens of settlements lay along the road where the residents' windows are not further than two meters from the speeding trucks. The petitioners claimed for compensation because of the detraction of the value of their real estate as well as compensation for the ruination of their life quality. The respondent party was the road operator company which would have been obliged to protect the residential area from the harmful impacts of the roads. The residents hope that the procedure and the judgement will urge the road operator and the decision makers on national level to solve the problem of heavy duty traffic on Hungarian roads.

Another legal action was started in 2007 when a resident of Budapest claimed for compensation from the Municipality of Budapest for her multiple illnesses caused by the air pollution. This test case wasn't successful due to the enormous burden of proof and to the huge costs of the procedure.

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2. Administrative litigation

NGOs have the right to be a client in environment related administrative procedures such as environmental licensing and construction permission of huge investments. These investments (e.g. shopping centres, office buildings, new residential areas, underground garages, roads) may attract huge traffic and may cause extra air pollution in the cites. The environmental NGOs are entitled to take part in the procedure and to comment the plans. They can use the administrative remedies against the decision of the authority in charge. Moreover the NGOs can start a court action against the legally binding decision. The court may force the authorities to modify the decision which is an effective legal tool to reduce the future environmental burden of an investment. The Clean Air Action Group (CAAG) often uses this opportunity and many of such cases were successful.

Some administrative cases in the practice of CAAG: underground garages (Múzeum kert, József nádor tér), shopping centers (Köki, Dunakeszi swamp), residential area developments, highways (M0), etc.