In 2006, Morristown Associates filed a suit against multiple heating companies and the previous owners of a dry cleaning business to seek payment for the costs they incurred redeveloping the property. They cited the source of contamination as leaking underground storage tanks. The contamination had been the result of corroded fill pipes that failed after ten years; the pipes were intended to last at least 30 years. Approximately 9,400 to 14,670 gallons of oil leaked over 15 years and contaminated the environment.
The plaintiff claimed that under the Spill Act, the six year statue of limitations did not apply but the defendants said that the statute of limitations prevented the legitimacy of the plaintiff’s claims of damage because they had been filed after the six year limit had expired. In 1999 there was a leaky UST that had been taken care of by an outside contractor. The plaintiff claimed to not have knowledge of this and that he did not become aware of the UST at the cleaners until 2003.
This case came before the Superior Court of New Jersey, which disagreed with the plaintiff’s claims. They maintained N.J.S.A. 2A:14-1, which establishes a six year limitation period for “…any tortuous injury to real or personal property…”. The court also said that the plaintiff should have discovered the contamination in 1999 when the leaky UST had to be removed, and the lack of knowledge implies a lack of diligence of care for personal property and carry out the responsibilities associated with land ownership. The court upheld the six year statute of limitations and dismissed the plaintiff’s claims.