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Corradetti v. Sanitary Landfill, Inc.

United States District Court, D. New Jersey

December 7, 2012

Anthony CORRADETTI, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
SANITARY LANDFILL, INC., et al., Defendants.

Page 157

Shawn M. Latourette, Esq., Shari M. Blecher, Esq., Stuart J. Lieberman, Esq., Lieberman & Blecher PC, Princeton, NJ, for Plaintiffs Anthony Corradetti, Marianne Corradetti, Robert Corradetti, Maribeth Stuffo, and Nick Patti.

Cathleen Marie Devlin, Esq., Deborah L. Shuff, Esq., Saul Ewing LLP, Philadelphia,

Page 158

PA, for Defendants Sanitary Landfill, Inc.; SC Holdings, Inc.; Waste Management of New Jersey, Inc.; Waste Management, Inc.

OPINION

SIMANDLE, Chief Judge.

I.

INTRODUCTION

Defendants operate a landfill that has allegedly caused groundwater contamination and that is adjacent to property which Plaintiffs own or at which they live or work. Before the Court is the motion of Defendants Sanitary Landfill, Inc. and SC Holdings Inc. (" Defendants" ) to dismiss, strike, and stay [Docket Item 12] different portions of Plaintiffs' Complaint [Docket Item 1-2].

For the following reasons, Defendants' motion to dismiss will be granted in part and denied in part, their motion to strike will be granted in part and denied in part, and their motion to stay will be dismissed as moot. The Court's primary holdings are (1) Plaintiffs have not alleged intent and, therefore, their assault and battery claims will be dismissed without prejudice; (2) Plaintiffs' public nuisance claim will not be dismissed because they have sufficiently pled special damages; and (3) Plaintiffs' quality of life claim will be struck, and it will be merged into Plaintiffs' private nuisance claim as a species of damages that may be sought.

II.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs Anthony and Marianne Corradetti are husband and wife, and they own and operate commercial property (" Corradetti Property" ) at 1300 Taylors Lane, Cinnaminson Township, in Burlington County. (Compl. ¶ 2.) Plaintiff Robert Corradetti is Anthony and Marianne Corradetti's son, and he has worked at the Corradetti Property full-time as a warehouse employee since 1980. (Compl. ¶ 3.) Plaintiff Maribeth Stuffo is Anthony and Marianne Corradetti's daughter. (Compl. ¶ 4.) She worked at the Corradetti Property from 1974 to 1989 in sales and management and, since August 2008, she has been a tenant at the Corradetti Property. (Compl. ¶ 4.) Nick Patti is an independent contractor who has worked at the Corradetti Property since October 2009. (Compl. ¶ 5.)

Defendants own and operate one or more landfills within the Cinnaminson Groundwater Contamination Superfund Site (" Superfund Site" ), which borders Taylors Lane and is adjacent to the Corradetti Property. (Compl. ¶ 11.) The Cinnaminson Site consists of hundreds of acres of residential to heavy industrial property. (Compl. ¶ 13.) Large amounts of waste materials were landfilled at the Superfund Site, including municipal solid waste, agricultural waste, industrial waste, and hazardous waste. (Compl. ¶ 14.) Operation of the landfill caused groundwater contamination at the Superfund Site, and the groundwater contamination then migrated onto the Corradetti Property. (Compl. ¶ 15.) The contaminants in the groundwater include, inter alia, arsenic, manganese, and volatile organic compounds, such as chloroform and benzene. (Compl. ¶ 16.)

The Superfund Site is being treated over a long period of time by a groundwater pump-and-treat remediation system, but the contamination remains. (Compl. ¶ 17.) Plaintiffs allege that Defendants failed to promptly control the contamination sources, failed to promptly begin remediation, and failed to survey neighboring properties for contamination. (Compl. ¶ 76.) In addition, Plaintiffs allege that the remediation that Defendants did conduct was " woefully inadequate and designed to save costs as opposed to protect

Page 159

against the risks to human health and the environment...." (Compl. ¶ 77.)

Environmental testing has detected the presence of contaminants in the subslab soil beneath the Corradetti Property and in the indoor air within a building located on the Corradetti Property. (Compl. ¶ 21.)

Plaintiffs allege, essentially, that Defendants permitted contaminated groundwater to migrate onto the Corradetti Property and then allowed the contaminated groundwater to rise, in a gas phase, to the surface and enter the indoor air of buildings on the Corradetti Property. (Compl. ¶ 1.) Plaintiffs allege that breathing contaminated air has caused serious risks of adverse health effects. (Compl. ¶ 1.)

Plaintiffs allege that Defendants understood the risks to health and property that unsafe landfill operations can cause. (Compl. ¶ 28.) Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants were aware that their contaminated groundwater migrated onto the Corradetti Property and that Defendants failed to stop or mitigate the contamination. (Compl. ¶ 23.) Plaintiffs fear that they will become injured by contaminants in the air and, as a result, they cannot use their property or conduct their business as they normally would. (Compl. ¶¶ 24-25.) The contamination has harmed Plaintiffs' quality of life, caused them to fear future illness, and diminished their Property value. (Compl. ¶¶ 25-26.)

Plaintiffs have ten claims: (1) negligence, (2) assault and battery, (3) negligent infliction of emotional distress and fear of future injury, (4) quality of life damage, (5) private nuisance, (6) public nuisance, (7) trespass, (8) negligent site remediation, (9) violation of the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act, and (10) violation of the New Jersey Water Pollution Control Act.

Plaintiffs seek multiple forms of relief including, inter alia, a declaration that Defendants have violated the laws listed in each count, medical surveillance for each Plaintiff that has been exposed to contaminants, preliminary and permanent injunctions to pay money into a fund sufficient to clean and remediate the contamination, and compensatory damages.

III.

JURISDICTION

Plaintiff filed this action in the Law Division of New Jersey Superior Court, Burlington County. Defendants removed the action to this Court. All of the Plaintiffs are citizens of New Jersey. Defendant SC Holdings is a corporation organized and existing under the laws of Pennsylvania, with its principal place of business in Pennsylvania. (Notice of Removal ¶ 5.) Defendant Sanitary Landfill merged into SC Holdings and ceased to exist in 1993. No Defendant is presently a citizen of New Jersey,[1] and ...


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