Environmental Liability for Release of Gasoline and Dry Cleaning Waste Products
The plaintiff, owner of a 4.5 acre parcel of land located in Warwick, RI, at the corner of Airport Road and Warwick Ave., (formerly the site of “Copperfields,” a well known bar/restaurant in the area), decided to sell the property and retire in 2007. He listed the property for sale and had a potential buyer who, as part of his due diligence, retained an environmental consultant/engineer to assess the property for any environmental contamination that may be present. Upon completion of the assessment, the engineer reported that the property and groundwater was contaminated at the western end of the property that abutted a gasoline station, by gasoline byproducts and at the easterly end of the property that abutted a dry cleaning business, by dry cleaning byproducts. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (RIDEM) was notified and investigated the report.
As a result of the contamination, the Plaintiff retained Brian Cunha & Associates to represent him against the the gasoline station and the dry cleaners, both of whom denied that the contamination came from their respective businesses. They both claimed that numerous other businesses had operated for generations at that same location caused the contamination and not their companies. Attorney Brian Cunha, retained hydrogeologists and environmental experts who were able to demonstrate through groundwater flow, geology of the region and historical data that the contamination was caused by a leakage of product at the two locations. That same leakage was able to get into the groundwater and then flow onto the Plaintiff’s property. Both defendants also disagreed as to the damages that accrued to the plaintiff. The gasoline station claimed it had been ordered by the Department of Environmental Management to remediate the portion of the Plaintiffs property that the plaintiff claimed was impacted and therefore because they had cleaned up the property the plaintiff had not been damaged. The dry cleaner claimed that the cleanup was nominal and therefore would not agree to pay any damages.
Attorney Brian Cunha retained an economist, a realtor and commercial real estate appraiser to evaluate the plaintiffs damages. One week before trial the gasoline station agreed to pay the Plaintiff $400,000 and to complete the cleanup of the gasoline by products and the owner of the dry cleaner agreed to transfer title of his land and building, valued at $584,000.00 to the plaintiff, and the case was settled.