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Anthony Wayne Corp. v. Elco Fastening Systems, LLC

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20040
Nos. 3:13CV1406, (N.D. Ind., 02/19/2016) (Simon, J.)

A district court, on motions for summary judgment, dismissed all but one of a property owner's environmental, waste, and breach of lease claims against various manufacturing companies that leased the site. The owner has been leasing the property since 1972, but it has largely been an absentee landlord; a company representative has been to the site just once in the last 30 years. After learning that the property required environmental cleanup due to soil and groundwater contamination, and that the building on the property needed over $660,000 in repairs, it filed the instant lawsuit under CERCLA and Indiana law. But given the company's lack of evidence concerning the conduct of its various tenants over the years, it is unable to establish its environmental claims or a breach of its lease against any of them. The owner clearly lacks evidence sufficient to support more than a possibility that the tenants released hazardous substances on the property. However, at this early stage of the proceedings, the presumption of the lease that the property is in good order when a tenant first takes possession leaves open the possibility that the last tenant might be liable for waste. When the last tenant to occupy the damaged property assumed the lease, it did so with the understanding that the property was in "good order and repair." A jury will have to decide if that in fact was true.