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Affirmed: 溢油法 Provides for Joint and Several Liability but a Passive Landlord is Off the Hook

在2012年 新泽西州开发人员验证码v。马坎图内,428 N.J. Super。新泽西州上诉法院第546条(2012年,附录)裁定,一名被动土地所有者在《新泽西州溢油和赔偿法》(“Spill Act”) was a liable party under the Act even if the owner did not contribute to the contamination, unless it could meet the 溢油法’s definition of an “innocent purchaser.”  This decision gave rise to an entirely new wave of litigation against landowners who, previously, were not thought to be PRPs under the 溢油法. 然而,上周,新泽西州高等法院上诉庭确认了高等法院的一项裁定,认为被动房东是 liable party under the 溢油法, application of the equitable principles of allocation may result in a finding that such a landlord is nevertheless 0% responsible  修复费用。 

Allwood 在 vestment Company诉Jogam Corp.,A-5439-13T4(D.N.J. 2015年9月18日),审判和上诉法院均依赖新泽西最高法院’s 2012 decision in 新泽西州环境部Prot。 v。迪曼特212 N.J. 153(2012),首先发现  liability under the 溢油法 was joint and several even in private party claims and, second, that a party seeking contribution bears the burden of establishing “抱怨的放电之间有些联系”以及涉嫌贡献者的行为。 该案涉及干洗业务中对全氯乙烯(PCE)污染的补救。 财产所有者的原告试图强迫被告干洗店租客补救污染。  The plaintiff alleged claims under the 溢油法 as well as the lease and guaranty for the property, which specified that the defendant tenant would be responsible for discharges of hazardous waste as a result of its operations.  The tenant then counterclaimed against the landlord, seeking contribution under the 溢油法.    

The lower court first found that both the tenant and landlord were liable under the 溢油法, and that such liability was joint and several. 虽然房客争辩说  迪曼特’s 关于连带责任的裁定仅适用于国家提起的案件,而不适用于私人当事人的供款要求,下级法院驳回了这一论点。 然后举行听证会以确定清理费用的责任分配。 

在听证会上,被告承租人辩称,自原告以来,原告房东应承担部分补救责任’的前承租人(同时也从事干洗业务)在该物业放电,使原告房东对前承租人承担衍生责任’s discharges..  但是,被告仅提供了间接证据和专家证词,这些证词和专家证词基于所处理的PCE数量,假定先前的房客贡献了该物业发现的PCE污染的一定百分比。

The lower court found the tenant 100% responsible for the remediation costs under the 溢油法 as well as the lease and guaranty, and issued an extensive written opinion setting forth its reasoning.  Citing 迪曼特,法院重申“the party alleging the 溢油法 liability of another party must establish 抱怨的放电之间有些联系 and the alleged discharger.”  The court said the “最大的意义”认定被告100%负责的是被告’无法显示先前干洗操作中PCE排放的任何实际记录。 法院认为,被告不能简单地依靠间接证据和专家证词来确定释放。 

确认下级法院’决定,上诉庭全面通过了初审法院’的推理,发现“没有理由打扰审判法官’事实调查,法律原则的适用或分配确定。” 因此,使这一上诉意见最为显着的是,尽管被动房东是根据 the 溢油法, so long as one or more other viable PRPs exists, only those PRP’s meeting the 迪曼特 关联要求应分配任何清理费用责任。