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$1.3 Million Settlement in Environmental Contamination Case

Attorneys Mark W. Tanner and Peter M. Newman negotiated a $1.3 million settlement on behalf of a hotel owner whose property was contaminated by gasoline that leaked from an adjacent service station in Luzerne County, PA. The release of more than 2,000 gallons of high-octane gasoline occurred when a flexible connector failed, allowing gasoline to leak into the ground below a dispenser (commonly referred to as a pump). The leak went undetected for an extended period due to the failure of the service station to take accurate stick readings of the fuel in its underground storage tanks. The gasoline then traveled underground and downgrade to plaintiff’s property. Groundwater monitoring wells drilled under the supervision of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection revealed contaminants such as benzene, isopropyl benzene, MTBE, and naphthalene, in quantities that exceeded Health Advisory Levels.

Shortly after the release occurred, but before the ramifications of the contamination were fully understood, plaintiffs entered into an agreement to sell their hotel for $6.5 million. When the buyer learned, in the course of his due diligence, that the property was contaminated with gasoline, the sale fell through. Two years later, plaintiffs found a new buyer willing to pay $5.9 million for the property.

Tanner and Newman filed suit against the giant petrochemical company that owned and operated the service station from which the gasoline leaked, seeking to recover pursuant to the Pennsylvania Storage Tank and Spill Prevention Act and applicable sections of the Pennsylvania Code and common law. After more than a dozen depositions and the exchange of thousands of documents, the defendant agreed to a settlement that compensated the hotel owner for the diminution in value to his property and other consequential damages.