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Showing 18 posts in Contribution.

The federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), better known as Superfund, provides private parties with two types of claims to recover costs associated with investigating and remediating contaminated sites – a cost recovery claim under CERCLA Section 107(a), 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a), and a contribution claim under Section 113(f), 42 U.S.C. § 9613(f).  A party has a claim for contribution under CERCLA Section 113(f)(3)(B) if that party has “resolved its liability to the United States or a State for some or all of a response action or for some or all of the costs of such action in an administrative or judicially approved settlement.”  A party can therefore settle its liability for a contaminated site with the EPA or a state government, and then seek to recover a portion of the costs of that settlement from other potentially responsible parties who contributed to the contamination at the site.  But, CERCLA imposes a 3-year statute of limitations on Section 113 contribution actions, which begins to run from the date of entry of the administrative or judicially approved settlement.  While at first, this may appear to be a cut-and-dry statute of limitations, there is ample case law exploring the nuances of what it means for a party to have “resolved” its liability with the government such that the 3-year statute of limitations begins to run.  Last month, the United States Courts of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit added to that growing body of case law, in Asarco, LLC v. Atlantic Richfield Co., 866 F.3d 1108 (9th Cir. 2017). Read More »

On July 19, 2017, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the United States, as the title owner of a former mine, was a Potentially Responsible Party (PRP) under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), despite the fact that it did not have a possessory interest in the property at the time of the disposal of hazardous substances.  The opinion in Chevron Mining Inc. v. United States, No. 15-2209, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 12959, at *1 (10th Cir. July 19, 2017) thus appears to put to rest a defense often asserted, primarily by governmental entities, that “bare legal title” is insufficient for CERCLA liability to attach and instead that some other and additional “indicia of ownership” is required. Read More »

Last week, the Second Circuit issued an unpublished decision affirming an earlier decision of the Eastern District of New York that stands for the principle that a passive lessee that subleases a property to an unaffiliated tenant is neither an “Owner” nor an “Operator” under CERCLA. Next Millenium Realty, LLC v. Adchem Corp., No. 16-1260-cv, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 8476 (2d Cir. May 11, 2017).  Read More »

Earlier this week, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that Spill Act contribution claims against the State of New Jersey for events prior to April 1, 1977 – the date the statute was enacted – are barred by the doctrine of sovereign immunity.  This ruling places the State on an unequal footing with private parties for historic environmental liability under the Spill Act, and in effect, creates an automatic orphan share for pre-1977 sites where the State would otherwise have liability.  Read More »

Earlier this month, New Jersey’s Appellate Division affirmed a judgment issued by the Chancery Division, the state’s court of equity, which required neighbors to participate and share in the costs of investigating nearby contamination even though there was not yet any evidence as to the precise source of the contamination. Matejek v. Watson et al., Dkt. No. A-4683-14T1 (N.J. Super. Ct. Mar. 3, 2017).  In doing so, the Appellate Division adopted an expansive view of the Chancery Division’s power to fashion an equitable remedy when the letter of the law, in this case New Jersey’s Spill Compensation and Control Act (Spill Act), does not provide for one. Read More »

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit ruled that a PRP’s bankruptcy settlement of its CERCLA liability did not bar that PRP from later seeking contribution for a share of the settlement – despite the bankruptcy court’s determination that the settlement represented the PRP’s “fair share” of CERCLA liability.  Read More »

On Halloween, the New Jersey Appellate Division issued a potentially “scary” ruling and cautionary tale for owners of contaminated property who first remediate the conditions, and then later decide to pursue other potentially responsible parties (“PRPs”) to recover costs associated with the cleanup efforts under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (the “Spill Act”).  In Pollitt Drive, LLC v. Engel et al., Dkt. No. A-4833-13T3 (App. Div., Oct. 31, 2016), the Appellate Division affirmed a trial court finding that the plaintiff, property owner Pollit Drive, LLC (“Pollit”), improperly discarded a corroded pipe, sump pit, and concrete floor that were located beneath a building at an industrial property that formerly housed various commercial printing businesses, thus warranting sanctions for spoliation of evidence.  Spoliation occurs when a party violates its duty to preserve evidence that could be relevant to a matter at issue in litigation.  The duty to preserve evidence generally arises when a party has actual knowledge of pending litigation, or when litigation is “probable.”  Spoliation can result in the court issuing various degrees of sanctions, ranging from an adverse inference, a prohibition from introducing anything related to the spoliated evidence, striking pleadings, payment of attorneys’ fees, or the most harsh sanction – a complete dismissal of the case.   Read More »

Earlier this month, for the first time a New Jersey trial court applied the often pled, but seldom effective, laches defense to bar a private-party claim for contribution under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (the “Spill Act”).  Laches is an equitable principle that can be used to defend a claim that has become too “stale” by the plaintiff’s unreasonable delay in pursuing the claim, and where the defendant has suffered some harm from the delay.  Laches can bar a claim even if the plaintiff initiates the lawsuit within the applicable statute of limitations, or where no statute of limitations exists – such is the case for private party contribution claims under the Spill Act, which last year the New Jersey Supreme Court affirmed in Morristown Assoc. v. Grant Oil Co., 220 N.J. 360 (2015) are not subject to any statute of limitations.  In light of the Morristown decision, private claims for contribution under the Spill Act could therefore be brought decades after the discovery of contamination at a site.   Read More »

The New Jersey Superior Court Appellate Division recently confirmed that the New Jersey Spill Act applies retroactively and abrogates the State of New Jersey’s sovereign immunity for contribution to contamination.  The case, NL Industries, Inc. v. State, Dkt. No. L-1296-14 (Law Div., Middlesex Cnty., August 27, 2014), affd. Dkt. No. A-0869-1413, (App. Div., Aug. 26, 2015), deals with the remediation of contamination related to the historic construction of a sea wall and jetty in the Laurence Harbor section of Old Bridge Township.  The sea wall and jetty are part of the Raritan Bay Superfund site, which was placed on the National Priorities List in November 2009 after EPA detected elevated levels of lead and heavy metals in the soil, beach, sand, and sediments surrounding the Bay.  In January 2014, the EPA issued a unilateral administrative order to NL Industries, the manufacturer of lead and other heavy metal slags that were used to construct the sea wall, to clean up the contamination, which is anticipated to cost in excess of $75 million.   Read More »

In the 2012 case of New Jersey Schs. Dev. Auth. v. Marcantuone, 428 N.J. Super. 546 (App.Div. 2012), the New Jersey Appellate Division held that a passive landowner who purchased contaminated property prior to the enactment of the New Jersey Spill and Compensation Act (“Spill Act”) was a liable party under the Act even if the owner did not contribute to the contamination, unless it could meet the Spill Act’s definition of an “innocent purchaser.”  This decision gave rise to an entirely new wave of litigation against landowners who, previously, were not thought to be PRPs under the Spill Act.  Last week, however, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey returned some hope to these property owners when it affirmed a Superior Court decision holding that, while a passive landlord is a  liable party under the Spill Act, application of the equitable principles of allocation may result in a finding that such a landlord is nevertheless 0% responsible  for the costs of remediation.   Read More »