On March 11, 2020, the Supreme Court of the State of New York Appellate Division, Second Department denied an appeal filed by a New York State Municipality against a private Land Developer.  The appeal was successfully opposed by Renzulli Law Firm.  The case arises from two fuel oil spills that occurred in 2008.  The Municipality sold a large plot of land to the Land Developer in 1999 and simultaneously leased back a portion of that land.  After fuel oil was found to be leaking onto portions of the land, the Land Developer spent millions of dollars remediating the spill.  In turn, Land Developer brought an action against the Municipality to recoup expenses paid for the remediation and cleanup of the fuel oil.  The Complaint against the Municipality alleges eleven causes of action, including but not limited to violations of the Navigation Law, negligence, and breach of contract.  The trial court denied the Municipality’s motion for summary judgment with respect to eight causes of action and the Municipality’s appeal followed. 

The Appellate Court agreed with Renzulli Law Firm’s arguments and held that sufficient triable issues of fact exist warranting denial of County’s summary judgment motion. Specifically, the court found there was sufficient evidence for a jury to find that the Municipality used the pipes of an active fuel distribution system and that fuel leaked when the Municipality attempted to fill its storage tank, twice.  Agreeing with Renzulli Law firm, the Court held that these facts are sufficient for a jury to find that the Land Developer was merely a “faultless landowner” as that term is defined under the Navigation Law § 181(5).

Similarly, the Court held that Renzulli Law Firm presented sufficient evidence establishing triable questions of fact with respect to Land Developer’s breach of contract claim. The Appellate Court found that, while the terms of the lease are somewhat ambiguous as to what areas of the premises the Municipality was responsible for maintaining, a jury could find that the terms of the contract required the Municipality to maintain those parts of the premises that are adjoining, or appurtenant to, the leased premises, including the underground fuel distribution system partially located outside of the leased premises but connected thereto.  Moreover, the Court agreed with Renzulli Law Firm’s argument that part of the fuel spill occurred on leased premises, which was indisputably the Municipality’s duty to maintain under the lease agreement.  The Appellate Court relied on similar rationale in affirming the lower court’s decision regarding the remaining challenged causes of action.

Renzulli Law Firm regularly and avidly defends clients throughout the tri-state area (and nation-wide) in a variety of civil actions involving personal injury, property damage, and commercial disputes.  Contact Renzulli Law Firm today for premiere legal services where Client’s Come First.