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Home Heating Oil Release Lawsuit: Liability Assessment and Summary Judgement

Project # 31070

Home Heating Oil Release Lawsuit: Liability Assessment and Summary Judgement

Our initial client’s insured was a landscaper who was retained by a homeowner to repair their underground storage tank system. During the repairs, the Insured punctured a fuel supply line for an underground storage tank (UST) system. The Insured was unaware they struck the line until the homeowner identified they did not have hot water approximately ten (10) days after the incident. Subsequent investigation of the condition identified that the UST was empty, so the fuel oil company was called to service the heating system and refuel the UST. On the day after the UST refueling, the homeowner noticed a fuel oil odor and the presence of staining in their yard, so the NYSDEC was notified. The property was subsequently remediated to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Residential standards; however, soil remaining in place underneath the residential structure exceeded the NYSDEC Unrestricted Use standards. Based on depth to groundwater, the NYSDEC determined the remediation was protective of human health and the environment, so the NYSDEC issued regulatory closure to the release.

Following achievement of regulatory closure, the homeowner decided to sue the landscaper, the heating oil delivery company, and the remedial contractors since the remediation did not bring the property to pre-release condition (below the Unrestricted Use standards). The homeowner requested damages in excess of $1M to demolish the structure, excavate inaccessible soil that exceeded the NYSDEC Unrestricted Use standards and reconstruct the residential structure. VERTEX developed an Expert Report regarding our opinion on the alleged damages, which was used to obtain a summary judgement against our initial client’s insured. After our initial client’s insured was dismissed from the suit, the co-defendants approached VERTEX to act as an Expert on their behalf. Our initial client agreed to release VERTEX. Upon release, we updated our previous Expert Report to include the co-defendants’ potential liability in the proposed damages. Our updated report was submitted to the court, and we were able to obtain a summary judgement for the co-defendants as well. Our involvement in the matter allowed our initial client’s insured and the co-defendants from incurring costs from the damages alleged in the lawsuit.

To learn more about VERTEX’s Environmental services or to speak with an Expert, call 888.298.5162 or submit an inquiry.

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