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Saline River Properties, LLC, v. Johnson Controls, Inc.

Citation: 41 ELR 20325
No. 10-10507, -13406, (E.D. Mich., 10/17/2011) (Cox, J.)

A district court held that a developer may be liable under CERCLA for response costs the former owner of contaminated property incurred at the site. The developer, who now owns the site, filed suit against the former owner to enforce an administrative order on consent that requires the former owner to take various environmental remedial actions by specified dates. The former owner then filed a counterclaim, alleging that the developer contributed to the release of hazardous substances at the site. Specifically, the former owner alleged that when the developer destroyed a concrete slab at the property, it caused hazardous substances beneath the slab to migrate into additional soils and groundwater, thereby requiring the former owner to perform additional monitoring at the site. Because the former owner created a genuine issue of material fact as to whether the developer caused a release or disposal at the facility and whether this caused the former owner to incur necessary response costs, the court denied the developer's motion for summary judgment. In addition, the developer failed to show that it is entitled to either the innocent owner defense or the bona fide prospective purchaser defense at this stage of the litigation. The court also dismissed the developer's state-law claims of breach of contract, nuisance, and negligence, as well as portions of its lawsuit to enforce the order on consent.