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Showing 8 posts in Property Damage.

Last week the Third Circuit Court of Appeals issued a precedential opinion reversing the Eastern District of Pennsylvania’s decision granting a Motion to Dismiss a complaint filed by homeowners concerning alleged odors and air contaminants emanating from the Bethlehem landfill, thus reviving the case. Baptiste v. Bethlehem Landfill Co., No. 19-1692, slip op. (3d. Cir. July 13, 2020). In doing so, the Court found that a class of Pennsylvania homeowners allegedly affected by landfill odors may bring suit under theories of negligence, public nuisance and private nuisance. Read More »

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 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 »

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 »

They say stigmas are social constructs. In court, however, they must be based on relevant and objective evidence, so says the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in a precedential opinion involving the amount of compensation owed to private landowners for easements over their properties to allow the installation of an underground pipeline. In UGI Sunbury LLC v. A Permanent Easement for 2.4645 Acres, Nos. 18-3126, 18-3127 (Feb. 11, 2020), the appellant UGI Sunbury, LLC (UGI) sought vacatur of a decision from the District Court of the Middle District of Pennsylvania in a condemnation proceeding under the Natural Gas Act, which based the compensation awarded in part on a claim that the public perception of natural gas pipelines on or near real property will permanently reduce the value of the property due to the stigma that the property is “damaged goods.” While the Third Circuit did not opine on the validity of the theory in general, it did find that the expert testimony upon which the award was based utterly failed to meet the requirements of Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharmaceuticals, Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), and thus should not have been admitted nor relied upon.  Read More »

Two recent decisions from two different states, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, suggest that courts are becoming increasingly skeptical of landowners seeking to capitalize on oil and gas companies utilizing horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to access resources under the property of the landowners. Read More »

A putative class of plaintiffs who allege to have lived in a defined geographic area around a manufacturing plant in Merrimack, New Hampshire, or have been served by the town’s municipal water supply, sued the manufacturer in federal court, alleging property damage claims and exposure to perfluorooctanoate (AFPO) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) that warrants medical monitoring.  Brown v. Saint-Gobain Performance Plastics Corp. et al., No. 16-cv-242, 2017 WL 6043956 (D.N.H. Dec. 6, 2017).  The plaintiffs’ claims were styled as common law claims for negligence, trespass, nuisance, and negligent failure to warn, as well as an equitable claim for “negative unjust enrichment” on the theory that the manufacturer was unjustly enriched by avoiding costs associated with preventing the release of contaminants.  The Court dismissed the unjust enrichment count but allowed the remaining claims to proceed. Read More »

In 2014, the Town of Westport, Massachusetts (Westport) brought suit against Monsanto Company (Monsanto) seeking to recover costs it had and would incur in remediating PCB-containing caulk used in the construction of the Westport Middle School in 1969.  Through a series of pretrial motions, the district court eventually dismissed all claims against Monsanto and its related entities, and in the recent decision of Town of Westport v. Monsanto, No. 17-1461, 2017 U.S. App. LEXIS 24827 (1st Cir. Dec. 8, 2017), the First Circuit affirmed the district court’s actions, dealing a blow to purchasers of PCB-containing building materials seeking similar recoveries.  Read More »