Talks between Union Carbide Corp. and the Indian government aimed at settling the Bhopal poison-gas-leak case have broken down with no plans to resume them, lawyers suing the company said today.
Amid a new round of legal jockeying in the landmark case, U.S. Judge John Keenan was told by one of the U.S. lawyers suing the firm that "there are no further meetings scheduled" on settlement talks.
A lawyer for the Indian government later confirmed this, saying that Carbide had rejected the government's latest offer several weeks ago and had failed to come back with a counterproposal. The amount the Indians had sought was not disclosed; they previously had rejected a Carbide offer of about $200 million as inadequate.
"The ball is in Carbide's court," said Michael Ciresi, chief U.S. counsel for the Indian government.
The apparent collapse of settlement talks, which had earlier been urged by Keenan, increases the stakes in the consolidated lawsuit here over the world's worst industrial accident. The case involves claims by U.S. lawyers who say they represent tens of thousands of Indian victims of the disaster, which killed more than 2,000 people at Carbide's Bhopal plant last December.
In today's hearing, Stanley M. Rosenblatt, a Miami lawyer who said he represents 3,185 Indian victims, charged that the lead lawyers for the plaintiffs wasted time trying to reach a settlement rather than immediately seeking documents and testimony from company officials. "We are totally dissatisfied with the progress in the case," he said.
But Stanley Chesley, who had been appointed by Keenan to a three-member executive committee of plaintiffs' lawyers, said it was not at all unusual for complex disaster cases to take this long.
In another development, the lawyers said they are close to working out an agreement for Carbide to provide $5 million in interim relief to Bhopal victims through the Indian Red Cross.