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In New Jersey, a property owner affected by a release from an underground storage tank cannot succeed on a private nuisance or trespass action absent demonstration of the tank owner’s intentional, negligent or reckless conduct.  Moreover, neither the tank owner’s insurer’s agreement to remediate the affected property nor the migration of the leaked substance onto the affected property conveys the affected property owner third party beneficiary status such that the property owner can maintain a bad faith action against the insurance provider.  In Ross v. Lowitz, No. A-101-13 (N.J. Aug. 6, 2015), the New Jersey Supreme Court recently issued a decision narrowing the avenues to recovery of property owners affected by a release from a neighboring underground storage tank by clarifying these two rules. Read More »

An issue that insurers and industry have grappled with is whether a company can obtain environmental insurance coverage for costs to address violations of the Clean Air Act, when the costs at issue are aimed at curbing future air emissions, rather than remediating emissions that have already occurred.  Last week, one federal judge in Louisiana answered that question in the affirmative in La Gen Louisiana Gen. LLC, et al. v. Illinois Union Ins. Co., Dkt. No. 3:10-cv-00516 (M.D. La., Aug. 5, 2015).  Read More »

Environmental law attorneys are persistently reminded to avoid overuse of acronyms, lest we forget what they mean, and a ruling from the Southern District of California recently provided an example of why we should remember to break these acronyms down to their roots.  The Court’s opinion showed that a PRP is just that, a potentially responsible party, as it held that the United States government was 0% liable for the environmental contamination of a site, even though it was deemed a former “owner” of the facility under CERCLA. Read More »

We’ve been following the case of Strudley v. Antero Resources Corp., No. 2011 CV 2218, since May, 2012, when a Colorado trial court dismissed the action following plaintiffs’ failure to establish, pursuant to a Lone Pine order, a prima facie case showing that the defendant, a natural gas drilling company, was responsible for plaintiffs’ personal injuries.  The Lone Pine order required the Strudleys to submit to the Court, before it would allow any discovery, sufficient expert opinions, scientific testing results, and personal medical information to support their claims.  In July, 2013, a Colorado Court of Appeals reversed, finding that Lone Pine orders were not permitted under Colorado law and thus the plaintiffs could not be shut out of the courthouse at such an early stage. Read More »

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.