Articles Posted in Energy, Oil & Gas Law

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In 1979, plaintiff Morristown Associates purchased commercial property located in Morristown. The property contained a strip-mall-style shopping center known as Morristown Plaza. Among the tenants was Plaza Cleaners, a dry cleaning business owned at the time by Robert Herring. Herring and his wife had entered into a lease with the property's previous owner, Morris Center Associates, in 1976. Due to construction, Herring was unable to occupy and operate Plaza Cleaners until 1978. At some point before moving in, Herring installed a steam boiler in a room at the rear of the leased space and an underground storage tank (UST) for fuel to operate the boiler. In 1985, Herring sold Plaza Cleaners to defendants Edward and Amy Hsi. The Hsis owned the business until 1998 when it was sold to current owner and third-party defendant, Byung Lee. In August 2003, a monitoring of a well installed near Plaza Cleaner's UST revealed fuel oil contamination. A subsequent investigation revealed that although the UST was intact, the fill and vent pipes were severely deteriorated, with large holes along a significant portion of their lengths. Plaintiff's experts concluded that those holes had developed as early as 1988 and, since that time, oil had been leaking from the pipes each time the tank was filled. Each of the named oil company defendants in this case allegedly supplied fuel oil to Plaza Cleaners at various times between 1988 and 2003. The issue in this appeal was whether the general six-year statute of limitations contained in N.J.S.A. 2A:14-1 applied to private claims for contribution made pursuant to the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act, N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11f(a)(2)(a). Based on the plain language of the Spill Act, reinforced by its legislative history, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that N.J.S.A. 2A:14-1 s six-year statute of limitations was not applicable to Spill Act contribution claims. The Court therefore rejected the contrary determination of the Appellate Division and reversed and remanded this case to the Appellate Division for its consideration of other issues raised on appeal that were unaddressed. View "Morristown Associates v. Grant Oil Co." on Justia Law