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State v. Carroll

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20309
Nos. No. 99-472, 765 A.2d 500/(Vt., 12/01/2000)

The court holds that the doctrine of res judicata does not bar landowners' third-party state-law contribution and indemnification claim against a neighboring company for cleanup costs the state incurred in its efforts to remedy petroleum contamination on the landowners' property. The company previously filed suit against the landowners seeking damages for petroleum contamination stemming from activities on the landowners' property, and the landowners filed a counterclaim alleging that the company caused petroleum contamination on the landowners' property. In that case, a trial court entered judgment in favor of the company on the landowners' counterclaim, determining that the evidence of causation was slight and that they failed to prove damages. The state then filed a claim for cleanup costs against the landowners. The court first holds that the landowners should not be precluded under the doctrine of res judicata from pursuing a third-party claim for contribution and indemnification against the company. The landowners could not have been expected to bring their third-party claim for contribution and indemnification as a compulsory counterclaim in the previous action and, therefore, should not be barred from bringing it now. The state had not initiated any action against the landowners when the company brought its claim against the landowners. Thus, the trial court in the previous case could not have entertained the landowners' current third-party claim.

The full text of this opinion is available from ELR (5 pp., ELR Order No. L-308).

Counsel for Plaintiffs
David W. Gartenstein
Downs, Rachlin & Martin
14 Linden St., Brattleboro VT 05302
(802) 258-3070

Counsel for Defendant
Shannon A. Bertrand
Reiber, Kenlan, Schwiebert, Hall & Facey
71 Allen St., Rutland VT 05702
(802) 773-3300