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Showing 23 posts in Trespass.

This Post was authored by Lisa Maeyer, a MGKF summer associate. 

On June 8, 2020, the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a trial court’s holding that flooding from sewage overflows not resulting from intentional activity on the part of a sanitary authority did not constitute a de facto taking of a landowner’s affected property. In the Matter of: Condemnation by the Franklin Twp. Sewage Auth., No. 1237 C.D. 2019, 2020 WL 3039070 (Pa. Cmwlth. June 8, 2020). In particular, the Court held that because the sewage overflows resulted from the age of the system and infiltration and inflows not caused by any actions of the Franklin Township Municipal Sanitary Authority (the “Authority”), the lower court properly sustained preliminary objections to Plaintiff William Ott’s petition seeking compensation for a de facto taking of his property. Read More »

In an unpublished opinion, Sutton v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc., No. A-5545-18T3 (N.J. App. Div. May 27, 2020), the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court recently affirmed a lower court’s certification of a class seeking damages due to lost property value premised upon the existence of contaminated groundwater.  Certification of similar homeowner classes has been illusive in federal courts, and thus of particular note here, the Appellate Division made clear that the while the language of New Jersey’s class certification rule is “textually similar” to the federal rule, New Jersey’s interpretation of its own rule is “far more liberal and permissive toward class certification.” Op. at 30, n. 6. Although the local nature of the case most likely made the Class Action Fairness Act inapplicable, this decision is further evidence of the importance to defendants in class action litigation of exercising removal jurisdiction whenever possible. Read More »

In a highly anticipated decision, on April 20, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that state courts may award restoration damages to landowners who seek, under state law, a more expensive cleanup than that selected by EPA, but as potentially responsible parties under CERCLA they must first receive EPA’s approval of their alternative cleanup plan before they would be entitled to those damages. Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian, et al., No. 17-1498 (U.S. Apr. 20, 2020). Beyond its fact-specific holding, the opinion’s broader implications may have a significant impact on CERCLA cleanups and litigation going forward.   Read More »

On April 7, 2020, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court rendered its decision in New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection v. Hess, A-2893-18T2 (N.J. Super. App. Div. Apr. 7, 2020), one of the lawsuits in which the State of New Jersey (the “State”) is seeking to recover natural resource damages (“NRDs”). Earlier this year we flagged the Appellate Court’s opinion as one to watch in 2020, particularly with respect to how the Appellate Court would rule on the State’s ability to assert a claim for trespass over land it does not own—an issue that has divided sister trial courts. See New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection v. Deull Fuel, No. ATL-L-1839-18 (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div. Aug. 8, 2019) (denying motion to dismiss common law trespass claim because Public Trust Doctrine supersedes exclusivity element of trespass); New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection v. Hess, MID-L4579-18 (N.J. Super. Ct. Law Div. Dec. 21, 2018) (granting motion to dismiss common law trespass claim because State lacked exclusive possession over the land).  The Appellate Court’s unreported opinion provides clarity that despite the State’s authority under the public trust doctrine, it cannot assert a claim for trespass in the absence of exclusive possession. Read More »

In 2015, a pipeline in Santa Barbara County, California ruptured and leaked oil, some of which made its way to the ocean and eventually washed up on local beaches. A class of plaintiffs brought an action in federal district court against defendants Plains All American Pipeline, L.P., and Plains Pipeline L.P. (“Plains”) for claims of statutory violations, negligence, public nuisance, continuing private nuisance, nuisance per se, and trespass. In response, Plains filed a motion for summary judgment which sought to have the claims of the Property Subclass plaintiffs dismissed, primarily on the basis that the harm caused by the oil spill was a “temporary diminution in property value,” and not recoverable as a matter of law.

Last week, Judge Gutierrez of the District Court for the Central District of California issued an order denying most of the defendants’ motion for summary judgment, thereby allowing the litigation to continue. See Keith Andrews et al v. Plains All American Pipeline, L.P. et al., CV 15-4113 PSG (JEMx) (Mar. 17, 2020). The court held that several of plaintiffs’ claims contained genuine issues of material fact that should be brought before a jury, and that it could not rule as a matter of law that plaintiffs had not suffered harm. The claims which merited the most analysis in the order were the common law property claims, i.e.: negligence, nuisance, and trespass. Read More »

In a report and recommendation issued last week, a magistrate judge with the United States District Court for the District of Idaho found that disputes of fact preclude summary judgment on the majority of claims brought by a landfill against the United States Air Force and two other defendants. Idaho Waste Systems, Inc. v. U.S. Air Force, No. 1:18-cv-00229 (D.C. Idaho Jan. 27, 2020). The magistrate judge recommended dismissing state law claims brought against the Air Force on sovereign immunity grounds, but found that most of the remaining claims, including claims under CERCLA, should go to trial. Read More »

In a split 3-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the rule of capture applies to gas wells completed using hydraulic fracturing, though the Court’s holding was limited by the undeveloped factual record in the case. See Briggs v. Southwestern Energy Production Co., No. 63 MAP 2018 (Pa. Jan. 22, 2020). With the Court’s decision, Pennsylvania joins Texas and other states that have applied the rule of capture to hydraulic fracturing. The narrow scope of the Court’s holding, however, makes it almost certain that neighboring landowners will continue to assert trespass and conversion claims against developers in Pennsylvania engaging in hydraulic fracturing until the law is further developed. Read More »

In an opinion and order released last week, the MDL court in In re Gold King Mine Release denied response contractors’ motions to dismiss. No. 1:18-md-02824-WJ, 2019 WL 1282997 (D. N.M. March 20, 2019) (slip opn.). The 2015 Gold King Mine release sent over three million gallons of contaminated wastewater into rivers in Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. In the wake of the spill, the State of New Mexico, the State of Utah, the Navajo Nation, and multiple individual plaintiffs filed suit against the mine’s owner, the federal government, EPA, and EPA response contractors, Weston Solutions, Inc. and Environmental Restoration, LLCC (the “Response Contractors”). The court’s opinion, which allows the majority of plaintiffs’ CERCLA and tort claims to move forward, comes on the heels of a similar order denying the Federal Government’s motions to dismiss. See In re Gold King Mine Release, No. 1:18-md-02824-WJ, 2019 WL 999016 (D. N.M. Feb. 28, 2019) (slip opn.). Our blog post discussing that earlier opinion and order can be found here.    Read More »

In an opinion and order released last week, the United States District Court for the District of New Mexico denied the federal government’s motions to dismiss claims relating to the 2015 Gold King Mine wastewater spill. In re Gold King Mine Release, No. 1:18-md-02824-WJ, 2019 WL 999016 (D. N.M. Feb. 28, 2019) (slip opn.). The district court was not convinced by the government’s argument that it was entitled to sovereign immunity and that the plaintiffs’ complaints were inadequate. It denied the motions and allowed all but one of the plaintiffs’ claims to proceed to discovery. Read More »

In Kerns v. Chesapeake Exploration, LLC, No. 18-3636 (6th Cir. Feb. 4, 2019), released on Monday, February 4, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals held that a pipeline’s use of Ohio’s forced pooling law is not a taking under the Fourteenth Amendment. This decision, although not recommended for full text publication, is significant as more states enact and/or expand the scope of such laws, and may influence a similar suit brought in Colorado, within the Tenth Circuit, challenging the constitutionality of Colorado’s forced pooling regulations.  Read More »