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Commissioner of the Dep't of Planning & Natural Resources v. Century Alumina Co.

ELR Citation: 40 ELR 20015
Nos. No. 05-0062, (D.V.I., 01/05/2010)

A district court dismissed a landowner’s fraud and conspiracy counterclaims against the Virgin Islands on grounds of sovereign immunity. The Virgin Islands government filed suit against the landowner under CERCLA and state law for allegedly releasing hazardous substances onto its land and into the water. The landowner brought several counterclaims alleging, among other things, that the government knew of serious environmental violations on the land at issue but fraudulently withheld that information while the landowner was in negotiations to purchase it. The government argued that it was immune from suit, but the landowner claimed that the Virgin Islands Tort Claims Act does not waive sovereign immunity for fraud claims. The landowner’s fraud claim, however, was time barred. In addition, because the counterclaim arose from a transaction separate from the main claim (i.e., the counterclaim related to the sale of land and not the release of hazardous substances), the landowner’s claim did not sound in recoupment and, as such, did not fall into an exception to the rule barring its claim on grounds of sovereign immunity.