Over the past three decades, there have been an increasing number of lawsuits by property owners arising out of discharges or leaks of alleged contaminants from gasoline station underground storage tanks onto, or in the vicinity of, their (the owners’) property.
In these lawsuits, the plaintiffs typically allege that the gasoline station owners are liable under theories of strict liability, negligence, public and private nuisance, trespass and fraud. The damages sought by the plaintiffs frequently include compensatory damages, in the form of diminution of property value, punitive damages and the cost of monitoring their individual health into the future.
A plaintiff’s ability to succeed on these causes of action, and the degree of their recovery, however, principally depends on:
- the location and cause of the discharge;
- whether (and to what extent) the plaintiff’s property was affected by the discharge; and
- whether (and to what extent) the plaintiff’s personal health was affected by the discharge;
With regard to the affect on the plaintiff’s property, the key issues are: (1) whether any contaminants were ever detected, via environmental testing or monitoring, on the plaintiff’s property and, (2) if any contaminants were detected, what was the level of each contaminant found. If no contaminant has ever been detected on the plaintiff’s property, the plaintiff will not be entitled to recover any property damages in the lawsuit.
With regard to the affect on the plaintiff’s personal health, the key issues are: (1) whether the plaintiff’s property was directly affected by the discharge, (2) whether the plaintiff inhaled or ingested any contaminants, and (3) whether the plaintiff suffered any physical or emotional symptoms as a result of the discharge that he or she did not experience prior to the incident. If the plaintiff neither inhaled, nor ingested any contaminants and he or she did not experience any post-discharge physical or emotional symptoms, the plaintiff will not be entitled to recover any personal injury damages in the lawsuit.
The lawyers at Goldberg & Banks have successfully handled several cases involving the discharge of contaminants on behalf of gasoline station owners. If your property has been the subject of a discharge and you would like a consultation, please call (410) 580-9530.