New Jersey's Appellate Division Rules that Mere Generation of Hazardous Substances Without Evidence of Spill is Insufficient for Spill Act Liability

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In the recent case of Northern International Remail and Express Co. v. Lester Robbins, et al., the Appellate Division held that a plaintiff’s claim against a former owner of property cannot survive without evidence that the former owner’s tenants did more than just generate hazardous waste. In Northern International, Northern International Remail and Express Co. (“Northern”) purchased a site in Union, New Jersey from defendant, Lester Robbins (“Robbins”) in 1991. The site was purchased by Robbins in 1976, and at the time was being leased by Baron Blakeslee, Inc. (“Baron”). Baron was engaged in the storage and distribution of chlorinated solvents, and used “a minimum of two 1,000 gallon outdoor tanks” for storage of such solvents. Although Baron continued to be a tenant at the Union site after it was purchased by Robbins, Baron, however, moved the work it performed at the Union site to another location in 1970.

After moving its operations in 1970, Baron subleased the Union property to J&J Construction Co. (“J&J”), a corporation engaged in the installation of car radios. Another entity known as T&T Corporation (“T&T”) may also have operated at the property. The evidence indicates that both J&J and T&T generated hazardous waste. However, there was no evidence of the type of hazardous waste generated or if any governmental actions were taken against any of these entities for the storage of hazardous waste at the Union site.

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