Plaintiff acquired land that contained contaminated soil and deliberately buried waste originating from the 20 year period during which the Defendants, prior land owners, operated a casting foundry on the property. The Court found that under the Article 32(1) of the Constitution, the former Framework Act on Environmental Policy, the former Soil Environment Conservation Act, and the former Wastes Control Act, where a previous landowner who caused soil pollution by discharging, leaking, dumping, or neglecting soil contaminants sells the land without purifying the contaminated soil, or who illegally buried waste sells the land without treating the waste, can be held liable for committing a tort against a counterpart or current owner of the relevant land. The court specified that the contaminated soil and buried waste must be directly attributable to the Defendant’s act of discharging, leaking, dumping, or neglecting soil contaminants on the Instant Land. In addition, the Plaintiff must not be aware of the conditions the land was sold in. The plaintiff, or current landowner, incurs actionable damages if the current landowner is in a position of having incurred or expecting to incur costs for contaminated soil purification or waste treatment as a means to fully exercise one’s land ownership right, or is put in the same position after being ordered to take necessary measures from a competent administrative agency pursuant to the former Soil Environment Conservation Act. Under the Framework Act, “[i]f any suffering is caused by environmental pollution or environmental damage, the person who has caused the environmental pollution or environmental damage shall compensate for the suffering.”(Art. 44) thus, the tortfeasor, or prior landowner, is liable to the current landowner if these damages are incurred. Moreover, the court looked to the Soil Environment Conservation Act which stated, “[w]here any damage occurs due to soil contamination, a person who has caused the contamination shall compensate for such damage and take measures, such as purifying the contaminated oil.” (Art. 10-3(1)) If damages are incurred, the tortfeasor is liable for costs for purifying contaminated soil and/or treating waste.
(Source: Westlaw & Supreme Court of Korea