Group of residents first to win suit over traffic noise

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 June, 2002, 12:00am

Beijing residents angered by sleepless nights caused by traffic on a nearby expressway have won a lawsuit over injuries caused by noise pollution - the first such case in the nation to succeed.

In a class-action suit filed against housing developer Beijing City Synthesis Investment Co and Capital Public Roads Development Co., the 52 plaintiffs claim their lives have been disrupted for eight years by the rumbling noise of vehicles on the highway next to their homes.

According to a report in the Beijing Morning Post yesterday, Beijing City Synthesis Investment arranged for the residents to move into the complex in Fengtai District's Liuliqiao area in 1994 after their original homes were demolished for redevelopment.

The plaintiffs say any excitement they originally had about their new apartments was quickly quelled by the realisation they were only 30 metres from the Jingshi Expressway, which runs between Beijing and the Hebei provincial capital of Shijiazhuang.

The man who organised his neighbours to join the suit, surnamed Zhang, said he had suffered from severe insomnia since moving into the complex and had no option but to keep his windows closed year-round in an effort to block out the noise.

After several failed efforts to resolve the dispute out of court with the housing and highway developers, Mr Zhang and his 51 neighbours filed suit in Fengtai District Court last month, claiming that noise pollution from the highway exceeded state-approved limits.

The 52 residents requested a one-time payment of 3,000 yuan (HK$2,820) each to have their homes fitted with soundproof windows and an additional 60 yuan compensation for each month they had lived there until the new windows were installed. The total amount of the claim was less than 200,000 yuan.

Although Beijing City Synthesis Investment reportedly did not rebut the charges, Capital Public Roads Development maintained it should not be held responsible for noise it considered had an 'ordinary influence on residents' lives'.

The company said that when it built the Jingshi Expressway in 1987 it was designed in accordance with Beijing Statistics Bureau standards and that road usage had yet to exceed the maximum traffic flow of 5,000 cars an hour.

In its ruling on Monday, Fengtai District Court upheld the entire amount of the plaintiffs' claims but put most of the blame on the housing developer's failure to install adequate soundproofing systems, as the highway was built seven years before the apartment complex.

Beijing City Synthesis Investment has been ordered to pay each plaintiff 3,000 yuan and refit all homes with special windows within two months. The court also upheld the plaintiffs' requests for 60 yuan compensation a month until sound-proofing was completed.