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COLOUR QUEST LTD & ORS (Claimants) v (1) TOTAL DOWNSTREAM UK PLC (2) TOTAL UK LTD (3) HERTFORDSHIRE OIL STORAGE LTD (Defendants)

As a matter of fact companies in the Total group had control of tank filling operations at the part of the Buncefield oil storage depot where an explosion occurred and were vicariously liable for the careless tank filling activities of their employees. One of the causes of the explosion was the failure to promulgate an adequate system to prevent overfilling of a tank.

31 March 2009

The court was required to determine preliminary issues in proceedings arising out of explosions at the Buncefield oil storage depot. The cause of the explosions was the ignition of an enormous vapour cloud that had developed from the spillage of some 300 tons of petrol from a storage tank. The tank was part of the operations of the third defendant (H), a joint venture company between two oil companies (T and C) which owned 60 and 40 per cent respectively of H. There ensued a large fire which engulfed a further 20 fuel storage tanks. Apart from damage to a large proportion of the Buncefield site, significant damage was also caused to both commercial and residential properties outside the perimeter of the depot, in particular on the adjacent industrial estate. The claimants consisted of companies, many situated on the industrial estate, and individuals resident in the vicinity of the depot and companies which owned the other storage facilities and a warehouse at the site. Summary judg...

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