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Davey Compressor Co. v. Delray Beach, City of

ELR Citation: 24 ELR 21078
Nos. No. 81,538, 639 So. 2d 595/38 ERC 1630/(Fla., 03/31/1994)

The court holds that restoration costs, not diminution in value, are the proper measure of damages for the negligent contamination of a city's drinking water supply by a manufacturer who illegally disposed of waste perchloroethylene onto the ground at its facility. The court holds that the manufacturer must compensate the city for restoring the groundwater to a level fit for human consumption, even if the cost of restoration exceeds the value of the property on which the wells are located. Although courts usually restrict awards of restoration costs to the value of the property to avoid a windfall to the injured landowner, the potential for overcompensation does not justify limiting the measure of damages in this case. Unlike most property damage cases, this suit involves the negligent contamination of a public water supply. Moreover, unlike the private landowner context, diminution in property value is not just compensation to a city responsible for supplying potable water to over 50,000 residents. Also, public policy supports restoration costs as the measure of damages due to the environmental dangers directly associated with the negligent contamination of groundwater.

Counsel for Petitioner
Douglas M. Halsey, Kirk L. Burns
Law Offices of Douglas M. Halsey
First Union Financial Ctr.
200 S. Biscayne St., Ste. 4980, Miami FL 33131
(305) 375-0077

Counsel for Respondents
Susan Ruby, City Attorney
City Attorney's Office
200 NW First Ave., Delray Beach FL 33444
(407) 243-7090

Susan R. Koehn
Crowell & Moring
1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20004
(202) 624-2500