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Haddonbrook Associates v. General Electric Co.

ELR Citation: 41 ELR 20177
Nos. No. 10-1744, (3d Cir., 05/04/2011)

The Third Circuit held that a property owner's nuisance, negligence, and strict liability claims against a neighboring landfill are not continuing torts and, thus, are barred by the statute of limitations. In 1991, the owner's predecessor in interest was denied leave to intervene in a cost recovery action against the landfill. Almost 13 years later, the current owner filed suit, alleging that it has been precluded from developing its property for any commercial and/or residential use, and from otherwise receiving full use and value of its investment due to hazardous waste contamination at the landfill. The continuing tort doctrine allows a claim to go forward even if the initial tortious act occurred outside the statute of limitations period if the claim can be based upon the continuance of that tort within that period. The owner argued that evidence of ongoing migration of contaminants supported its continuing tort theory. But the owner failed to claim or adduce evidence of any compensable injury occurring within the limitations period. Moreover, the owner seeks damages for the diminution in value of its property—a measure of damages generally associated with permanent and not continuing nuisances. Likewise, the owner's negligence and strict liability claims do not constitute continuing torts. The owner failed to allege any newly breached duty apart from the duty to abate the contamination that is alleged in the nuisance claim, and it failed to demonstrate that the landfill engaged in abnormally dangerous activity within the limitations period. The lower court, therefore, properly granted summary judgment in favor of the landfill.