Environmental Litigation Update

In a lawsuit about potential liability of property management companies under the Federal Superfund law, the federal court in Atlanta recently ruled that a Superfund claim against the past property manager of a strip shopping center for perchloroethylene (PCE) contamination from a dry cleaner at the shopping center could proceed.

Under the Superfund law, past and present owners and operators of facilities from which hazardous substances are released can be held strictly liable for the cost to clean up the contamination. While finding that the property manager could not be held liable as a past “owner” of the shopping center, the Court held that there were sufficient facts to proceed on claims that it could be held liable as an “operator.” The ruling turned on facts showing conduct by the property manager that indicated it had authority to control hazardous substance disposal by the dry cleaner.

The Court also ruled that claims under the federal hazardous waste law–the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act–could proceed because the underground plume of PCE contamination actively expanded during the management company’s tenure as property manager for the shopping center.

For questions about potential liability of building or property managers and others under the Federal Superfund law, contact Stephen E. O’Day, Environmental Section Head.

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