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Back in August of 2013, we reported that the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court, in the case of Morristown Associates v. Grant Oil Co., held that a six year statute of limitations applied to claims brought pursuant to the Spill Act.  On Tuesday, January 27, 2015, the New Jersey Supreme Court overturned that decision to find that there is no statute of limitations barring a Spill Act claim.  MGKF will shortly be issuing a Special Alert discussing this important decision in more detail.

Back in July of last year, in the case of Hobart Corp. v. Waste Management of Ohio, 758 F.3d 757 (6th Cir. 2014), held that the statute of limitations for a contribution action following the execution of an Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent (“AOC”) that settles an entity’s liability to the government begins to run as of the effective date of the AOC.  To the extent that anyone might have thought that the Sixth Circuit would reconsider this holding, those hopes have been dashed.  On January 24, 2015, in LWD PRP Group v. Alcan Corp., ___ F.3d ___ (6th Cir. 2015), the Sixth Circuit stood fast, finding that it lacked “power to reverse [Hobart,] reversing the district court’s denial of a motion to dismiss certain counterclaims. Read More »

In November 2009, a group of 44 plaintiffs, including the Ely family, filed suit against Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. for personal injuries and property damages that allegedly resulted from Cabot’s hydraulic fracturing operations in Dimock Township, Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania. The case is pending in the Middle District of Pennslyvania, captioned as Ely et al. v. Cabot Oil & Gas Corp., et al., Dkt. No. 3:09-cv-2284 (M.D. Pa.) (J. Carlson). After a number of parties settled out of the lawsuit, Cabot filed a motion for summary judgment on the Elys’ claims for breach of contract and lost royalties on an oil and gas lease, fraudulent inducement, negligence and negligence per se, medical monitoring, and violations of the Pennsylvania Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (“HSCA”).   On Monday, nearly all of the Elys’ claims were dismissed. Read More »

On August 1, 2014, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision in Arizona v. Raytheon Co., No. 12-15691 (9th Cir. Aug. 1, 2014), that may give trial courts some pause before approving future CERCLA settlements.  At issue was whether the trial court failed to adequately scrutinize consent decrees entered into between the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (the “ADEQ”) and twenty-two Potentially Responsible Parties (“PRPs”) allegedly liable under CERCLA for contamination at the Broadway-Patano Landfill Site.  The majority opinion held that the trial court’s deference to the AQED’s judgment that the settlements were fair and reasonable was impermissible, and sent the case back down for a more thorough fairness hearing.   However, the more important aspect of the decision may be that, in dicta, the Court concluded that “[e]ven if EPA had been a party to the proposed consent decrees in this case, the district court would have failed to fulfill its duty to independently scrutinize the parties’ agreements.”  Id. at 21. Read More »

In general, when a party shares communications or information protected by the attorney-client or work product privilege with a third party, the privilege is waived.  However, in many jurisdictions, if this sharing occurs when there is anticipated or actual litigation, a “common interest” exception allows parties to disclose privileged information amongst themselves while still preserving the privilege against disclosure to their adversaries.  On Monday, the New Jersey Supreme Court in O’Boyle v. Boro. of Longport, No. A-16-12, 2014 WL 355874 (N.J., July 21, 2014), expressly adopted this “common interest” rule (also often referred to as the “joint defense privilege”) so that parties to litigation in New Jersey can share privileged communications and information without the risk of destroying the underlying privilege.  Read More »

Last summer we reported on Bell v. Cheswick Generating Station, 903 F. Supp. 2d 314 (3rd Cir. 2013), a Third Circuit decision which held that the Clean Air Act does not preempt state law claims for personal and property damage caused by air pollutants.  And in March, we noted, not unsurprisingly, that defendant GenOn Power had filed a Petition for Cert to the U.S. Supreme Court.  On June 2, that Petition was denied, which may have been the impetus for the Supreme Court of Iowa to release its decison in Freeman v. Grain Processing Corp., No. 13-0723 (June 13, 2014), holding that neither the Clean Air Act nor Iowa's analogous state act pre-empted similar state law claims.  The decision is a hefty one, providing a historical overview of the Clean Air Act and preemption law and an in-depth discussion leading to the Court's final determination.  Put this one aside for one evening when you're sitting in the recliner with a glass of wine at your side.   

In a 7-2 opinion issued today, the United States Supreme Court held that CERCLA does not preempt state law statutes of repose that foreclose causes of action for personal injury and property damage claims asserted after a statutorily-prescribed time period has elapsed, effectively absolving potential defendants from liability.

The case – CTS Corp. v. Waldburger et al, 573 U.S. ___ (2014) (slip op) – involves a 2011 state-law nuisance action against the former property owner, CTS Corp., which in 1987 sold property contaminated with TCE and DCE, which it had characterized as “environmentally sound.”  More than 20 years after CTS Corp. sold the property, EPA informed subsequent property owners and adjacent landowners that their groundwater was contaminated and that the source of the contamination was the former electronics manufacturing facility operated by CTS Corp. on the property. Read More »

Landowners who find themselves in the path of an oil or gas pipeline quickly learn that their rights are limited, and that a pipeline company granted a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity hold most of the cards.  Thus, the recent decision in Alliance Pipeline, L.P. v. 4,360 Acres of Land, No. 13-1003 (8th Cir. Mar. 24, 2014), which in a mere 10 pages washed aside the landowners challenges Alliance Pipeline’s condemnation action, comes as no surprise.    Read More »

This summer, we reported on the Third Circuit’s decision in the Bell v. Cheswick Generating Station case, which held that the federal Clean Air Act (“CAA”) does not preempt state common law tort claims in a putative class action filed by over 1,500 residents complaining that the operations of GenOn Power Midwest, L.P.’s (“GenOn’s) coal-fired electric generation station constituted a nuisance under Pennsylvania common law.  Read More »

Since the United States Supreme Court decided Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. v. Dukes, 131 S.Ct. 2451 (2011), plaintiffs in contamination cases have struggled to meet the raised bar for class certification.  And that bar was certainly not lowered by the Seventh Circuit in its decision in Parko v. Shell Oil Co., Nos. 13-8023 & 13-8024 (7th Cir. Jan 17, 2014).  Parko involved a putative class comprised of property owners in the town of Roxana, Illinois, who claimed that their property values had been diminished by benzene contamination of the groundwater from an adjacent oil refinery which had been in operation for nearly 100 years.  In checking off the certification requirements, the district court held that the question of whether the multiple defendants who owned and operated the refinery during the preceding 90 plus years failed to “contain petroleum byproduct [resulting] in contamination to Roxana property” predominated.   The Seventh Circuit panel unanimously disagreed.  Judge Posner, writing for the Court, described the opinion as necessary for clarification of a trial court’s responsibility to conduct a “rigorous analysis” of whether common issues predominate; in doing so, he did not hesitate to take the district judge to task for “treat[ing] predominance as a pleading requirement” rather than an evidentiary one.  Read More »