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Showing 12 posts in Property Value.

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In an unpublished opinion, Sutton v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc., No. A-5545-18T3 (N.J. App.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 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 »

On June 21, 2019, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania, shaking up Fifth Amendment takings claim jurisprudence. Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania, 139 S.Ct. 2162 (2019). In Knick, the Court held that a property owner has an actionable Fifth Amendment takings claim at the moment a state or local government takes her property without paying just compensation, and that violation of the Fifth Amendment can be remedied in federal court via a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The ruling overturned years of precedent that held that a plaintiff could not bring a takings claim in federal court against a state or local government until she had first exhausted her state court remedies. Knick specifically overruled Williamson County, the 1985 case which established the state-litigation requirement. Williamson County Regional Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985). 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 »

Last week, Judge Chad F. Kenney, former Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge and recent appointee to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granted Defendant Bethlehem Landfill Company’s motion to dismiss a putative class action alleging that landfill odors created a public and private nuisance for all households within a 2.5-mile radius of the facility. Baptiste v. Bethlehem Landfill Co. et al., No. 18-2691, 2019 WL 1219709 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 13, 2019). The lead plaintiffs, Robin and Dexter Baptiste, reside 1.6 miles from the facility and allege that odors from the facility impacted their property value and ability to enjoy their property. Id. at *5. They alleged that the conditions affected 8,400 households within a 2.5-mile radius. Id.  They styled their claims as claims for public nuisance, private nuisance, and negligence. Id. at *1. Read More »

Reminding all Superfund practitioners that while the application of allocation principles and factors may be flexible it is not without boundaries, on September 11, 2018, the Third Circuit filed an opinion vacating and remanding a District Court’s equitable allocation of cleanup costs because the lower court’s methodology resulted in an allocation that was too “speculative.” Trinity Indus., Inc. v. Greenlease Holding Co., No. 16-1994, 2018 WL 4324261, at *12 (3d Cir. Sept. 11, 2018).  The Court pointed to two "mathematical" errors in the District Court’s analysis, and noted that although courts do not have to be perfectly precise in their calculations, they must be able to demonstrate a solid mathematical foundation for arriving at their final number. The ruling also offered guidance for the lower court on an appropriate methodology and application of certain equitable factors. This guidance could prove helpful for other practitioners in this area of the law regarding what the Third Circuit would deem non-speculative, and therefore acceptable. 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 »

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit affirmed a district court’s ruling to decertify a class action filed by landowners for releases from Exxon’s 850-mile Pegasus Pipeline that crosses four states from Texas to Illinois.  The case, Webb, et al. v. Exxon Mobil Corp., et al., Dkt. No. 15-2879 (8th Cir., May 11, 2017), was filed by a group of landowners who claimed that Exxon materially breached the terms of their right-of-way easement agreements by allegedly failing to inspect, maintain, repair, and replace the pipeline, which was originally installed in the mid-1940s.  At various times since the 1980s, the pipeline had releases in Texas, Arkansas, and Missouri, which the plaintiffs claim resulted in damage to their properties.  The plaintiffs sought to rescind their right-of-way easement agreements and force Exxon to remove or replace the entire pipeline, or in the alternative, to be paid damages for breach of contract and diminution in property value.  Read More »