{ Banner Image }
Search this blog

Subscribe for updates

Recent Posts

Blog editor

Blog Contributors

Showing 18 posts in Spill Act.

On Monday, July 29, 2019, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that an arbitrator’s decision dismissing a property owner’s claim for coverage under the Spill Compensation Fund was arbitrary and capricious because the decision was procedurally and substantively flawed. US Masters Residential Property (USA) Fund v. N.J. Dept. of Envt’l Prot., __ A.3d __, 2019 WL 3402917 (N.J. 2019) (slip opn.). The Court’s 4-3 opinion suggests that despite the deference afforded arbitrators in these cases, they remain subject to a searching judicial review. Read More »

On January 4, 2019, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Appellate Division, affirmed a Middlesex County trial court order holding that judicial estoppel is a valid defense to contribution claims under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (the “Spill Act”), at N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11 to 23.24. The case, Terranova et al., v. Gen. Elec. Pension Trust et al., N.J. Super. App. Div. Docket No. A-5699-16T3, involved a dispute between Plaintiffs Matthew and Karen Terranova and their company New Land Holdings, LLC, the current landowners of a contaminated gas station property, against Defendants General Electric Pension Trust, Atlantic Richfield Co., Amerco Real Estate Company, Charles Boris, Jr., Carol Boris, and Edward Wilgucki, former owner-operators at the site. Plaintiffs sought contribution for costs to remediate impacts from leaking gasoline underground storage tanks (“USTs”). Read More »

On February 12, 2018, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey held that environmental groups had standing to challenge on appeal the trial court’s ruling accepting DEP’s $225 million settlement with Exxon Mobil for Natural Resource Damages (“NRD”), which include compensation for the injury and destruction of natural resources and the public’s loss of the use and enjoyment of those resources under New Jersey’s Spill Compensation and Control Act (“Spill Act”). See New Jersey Dep’t of Envtl. Prot. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., No. A-0668-15T1, 2018 WL 823001 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. Feb. 12, 2018). The appellate court ultimately upheld the settlement, notably the largest NRD settlement in New Jersey’s history, finding that it was a reasonable compromise and was in the public interest.  Two weeks later, however, the environmental groups whom the Court found had standing to appeal, including the New Jersey Sierra Club and the Delaware Riverkeeper filed a Petition for Certification, requesting that the New Jersey Supreme Court review the decision.  Read More »

In a decision issued earlier this month, Judge Wolfson of the District of New Jersey held that the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) could recover primary restoration natural resource damages from a responsible party as long as NJDEP demonstrated by a preponderance of the evidence that its proposed primary restoration plan is “practicable.” New Jersey Dep’t of Envtl. Prot. v. Amerada Hess Corp., No. 15-6468 (FLW)(LHG) (D.N.J. Nov. 1, 2017).  In so holding, Judge Wolfson rejected an argument by the defendants, including Exxon Mobil Corporation and ExxonMobil Oil Corporation (“Defendants”), that primary restoration natural resource damages were available only upon a showing of “an injury or threat to human health, flora, or fauna.”  The court found that such a standard, which was derived by Defendants from unpublished, non-controlling authority from New Jersey state courts, was inconsistent with the plain language of the Spill Act that speaks directly in terms of “practicability.” 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 U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey denied Alcoa Domestic LLC’s request that the court dismiss claims against it regarding a previously owned site, finding that Alcoa may be in breach of the Purchase and Sales Agreement for the site and thus still liable for contamination caused by the removal of materials from the site. The case, Borough of Edgewater v. Waterside Construction, LLC et al., Civil Action No. 14-5060 (D.N.J. December 14, 2016), concerns the Borough of Edgewater’s endeavor to remediate contamination at Veteran’s Field in Edgewater, New Jersey in 2012.  A New Jersey contractor, Defendant Waterside Construction, LLC (and several other interrelated companies, collectively, “Waterside”), was awarded the contract for the remediation, which required Waterside to import clean stone to be used as fill in certain areas of the Veteran’s Field site.  Subsequent inspections revealed that the fill was contaminated, and Waterside admitted that the fill material originated from the former Alcoa Site, which is contaminated. 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 »

Earlier this month, in the case of New Jersey Dep’t of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) v. Navillus Group, Docket No. A-4726-13T3 (N.J. App. Div. Jan. 14, 2016), the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey determined that there was insufficient evidence on summary judgment to hold the principal of a company personally liable for part of a $2 million judgment in an action brought pursuant to the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act, N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11, et seq. (the “Spill Act”) to recover costs expended by the State to clean up a contaminated property in Franklin Township owned by Jim Sullivan, Inc.  The court also reversed the trial court’s finding of liability against the defendants under a theory of unjust enrichment. Read More »