Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Redevelopment Agency of the City of Stockton v. BNSF Railway Co.

Jun 28: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case Nos. 09-16585, 09-16739, & 09-17640. Appealed from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. The Appeals Court explains that appellants BNSF Railway Company and Union Pacific Railroad Company (the Railroads) formerly maintained railroad tracks on a parcel of land in Stockton, California, that was contaminated by petroleum. The petroleum was spilled at a nearby industrial site and migrated onto the property via an underground french drain the Railroads had installed in order to remove water from the roadbed. The Appeals Court considered whether the Railroads are liable for the contamination of the property under the law of nuisance or under California's Polanco Redevelopment Act (Polanco Act), Cal. Health & Safety Code § 33459 et. seq. The Appeals Court ruled that the Railroads are not liable.
    The Appeals Court said further, "There is no evidence that the Railroads actively or knowingly caused or permitted the contamination as required for nuisance liability and liability under the Polanco Act's Water Code provision. Nor were the Railroads 'owners' of the property under the Polanco Act's CERCLA provision when the contamination occurred. Because the record establishes no genuine issue of material fact as to the Railroads' liability, the Railroads are entitled to summary judgment. Therefore, we need not reach any of the damages issues on appeal or crossappeal. . . We reverse the grant of summary judgment for the Agency on the nuisance and Polanco Act-Water Code provision issues and remand for entry of summary judgment for the Appellants. We affirm the grant of summary judgment to the Appellants on the Polanco Act-CERCLA provision issue. Costs are awarded to the Appellants."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [*Remed, *CA9]

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