Search Site
Menu
Courts Prevent the New Jersey Spill Act from Leaking

In Morristown Assoc. v. Grant Oil Co., Docket No. A-0313-11T3 (App. Div. Nov. 17, 2015), the Appellate Division returned to a matter concerning the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (“Spill Act”).  Morristown Associates, the plaintiff, sought contribution from potentially responsible parties (“PRPs”) for costs associated with the cleanup and removal of fuel oil contamination in and around Plaza Cleaners, a dry cleaning business located at the plaintiff’s shopping center, known as Morristown Plaza.  The defendants were various heating oil companies that allegedly delivered fuel to Plaza Cleaners between 1988 and 2003.

The sole issue before the Supreme Court was whether the general six-year statute of limitations for damage to property applies to a private claim for contribution pursuant to the Spill Act.  The Supreme Court held that the statute of limitations did not apply and remanded the case back to the Appellate Division.  The Court’s decision avoided the grim prospect of PRPs escaping liability if they were not brought into the case within six years from when the contamination occurred.  Plaintiffs do not always name all PRPs immediately after the subject property becomes contaminated because some material facts tend not to be readily known.  For example, it may take years to even discover the existence of contamination, not to mention the identity of all PRPs.  Fortunately, the Court maintained the “longstanding view . . . that the Spill Act is remedial legislation intended to cast a wide net over those responsible for hazardous substances and their discharge on the land and waters of this state.”  Morristown Assocs. v. Grant Oil Co., 220 N.J. 360, 383 (N.J. 2015). 

The Appellate Division considered the remaining issues, which namely included whether, in order to be held liable for the groundwater contamination, the oil company defendants needed notice that the pipes leading to Plaza Cleaners’ underground storage tank were deteriorating.  The Court found that the Spill Act does not contain any particular notice requirement; instead, a party seeking contribution must show a “nexus or reasonable link between the discharge, the putative discharger, and the contamination at the specifically damaged site.”  Morristown Assoc. v. Grant Oil Co., Docket No. A-0313-11T3 (App. Div. Nov. 17, 2015) (internal quotations omitted).  Ultimately, whether Morristown Associates had established a nexus between each oil company defendant and the contamination by a preponderance of the evidence was a question for the trial court. 

In dismissing the defendants’ attempt to escape liability by the proposed statute of limitations and notice requirement defenses, the Supreme Court and Appellate Division, respectively, preserved the letter and spirit of the Spill Act and avoided creating a more stringent burden on plaintiffs seeking contribution.

Lieberman Blecher & Sinkevich’s attorneys have extensive experience with Spill Act cases and have worked for many years to ensure the best results for our clients.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Our Attorneys

Recent Twitter Posts

  • New Jersey Legislature Passes National Precedent Setting Environmental Justice Bill. https://t.co/P8ybU2UrtD
    2 months ago
  • New Jersey files 12 new environmental justice lawsuits. https://t.co/jYo1yCwTOa
    2 months ago
  • Plans Underway for Building Offshore Wind Farms Along the New Jersey Coast. https://t.co/S4CDX5DMS0
    3 months ago
  • Energy companies cancel construction of Atlantic Coast Pipeline. https://t.co/aDYHr4nhal
    3 months ago

Recent Blog Posts

Lead Exposure and Frivolous Litigation

Owners of older residential properties are likely familiar with the legal requirement to provide warnings concerning the existence of lead. Lead exposure, particularly amongst children, can result in severe, even
Read More
Lead Exposure and Frivolous Litigation

New Jersey Supreme Court rules the PLA does not preempt CFA claims by consumers

Now more than ever, consumer protection is important. As a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, we see new products on our shelves, promising safe disinfection for hands and surfaces as
Read More
New Jersey Supreme Court rules the PLA does not preempt CFA claims by consumers

Notices and Appellate Review of a CAFRA Permit

In JSTAR, LLC v. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, et al., Docket No. A-1745-18T1, the Appellate Division in an unpublished decision revisited the issues of notice and a review
Read More
Notices and Appellate Review of a CAFRA Permit

Preemption Isn’t Always the Answer: The Superior Court of New Jersey, Camden County Law Division highlights the necessary harmony between State legislation and municipal land use ordinances

On November 20, 2019, the Superior Court of New Jersey, Camden County Law Division, issued an opinion in the matter captioned Lakeview Memorial Park Association v. Burlington County Construction Board
Read More
Preemption Isn’t Always the Answer: The Superior Court of New Jersey, Camden County Law Division highlights the necessary harmony between State legislation and municipal land use ordinances

In the media

  • Gulf Coast Town Center facing foreclosure

    Naples Daily News, September 16, 2015

    Wells Fargo filed a lawsuit Sept. 8 against an affiliate of CBL & Associates, the owners of the decadeold, 1.2 million-square-foot mall in south Fort Myers for a $190.9 million unpaid loan. The center has 94 stores on 204 acres, with such anchors as Super Target, Belk, Best Buy, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Marshalls and Costco...

    Read More
  • Town liable for private company's leaking underground tanks, court rules

    NJ.com Jul 26, 2017

    CRANFORD -- A couple that owned a businesses in town and became sick from leaking underground tanks owned by an adjacent business can sue the township for damages because the tanks were partially ...

    Read More
  • Dark Waters: How a Class Action Catapulted NJ to Forefront of 'Forever Chemicals' Battle

    NJ Law Journal Jan 09, 2020

    As property owners become increasingly aware of PFAS contamination, and as individuals exposed to PFAS learn of the health risks associated with exposure, liability will likely affect entire supply chains.

    Read More
  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
Contact Our Firm

Quick Contact Form