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New Jersey Dep't of Envtl. Protection v. Ventron Corp.

Citation: 12 ELR 20281
No. Nos. A-1395-79 et al., 440 A.2d 455/182 N.J. Super. 210, (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div., 12/09/1981)

The court holds that the Spill Compensation and Control Act imposes strict joint and several liability for cleanup costs of hazardous substances spilled prior to the Act's effective date. The court finds that there is no constitutional inhibition against retroactive application of the 1980 amendment to the Spill Compensation Act because it did not create a new substantial liability but only provided remedies for cleanup. Thus, the court upholds the trial court's ruling that certain corporate defendants, owners of a mercury processing plant, are jointly and severally liable for discharging mercury into a state waterway, but rejects its finding that Ventron Corporation's and Velsicol Chemical Corporation's liability is limited to several liability for half the costs only. It also rejects those defendants' estoppel arguments and imposes joint and several liability premised on Ventron's assumption of liability and Velsicol's responsibility for both past and current mercury discharges. The court pierces the corporate veil of Velsicol's Wood Ridge subsidiary and imposes liability on Velsicol for the discharges of the former. The court affirms the dismissal of charges against individual defendants, ruling that mercury discharges from their property were de minimis and therefore not a substantial factor in proximately causing the dangerous condition. In addition, the court affirms the judgment of liability against Ventron for fraudulent non-disclosure of the latent subsurface pollution of the tract in question and sets aside the limitation of damages imposed by the trial court. Finally, the court rules that entities responsible for discharges of hazardous substances are not entitled to indemnification from the Spill Compensation Fund.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Ronald P. Heksch, Erminie L. Conley, Mary C. Jacobson; James R. Zazzali, Attorney General
Dep't of Law & Public Safety
State House Annex, 2d Floor, Trenton NJ 08625
(609) 292-4925

Counsel for Defendants
Adrian M. Foley Jr., John F. Neary
Connell, Foley & Geiser
Gateway I, Newark NJ 07102
(201) 643-2060

Murray D. Brochin
Lowenstein, Sandler, Brochin, Kohl, Fisher & Boylan
80 Park Plaza, Newark NJ 07102
(201) 624-4600

Harry R. Hill Jr., Michael J. Nizolek
Backes, Waldron & Hill
28 W. State St., Trenton NJ 08608
(609) 396-8256