Justia Environmental Law Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Alabama Supreme Court
Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London v. Southern Natural Gas Company
Southern Natural Gas Company (Sonat) sued Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's London and Certain London Marketing Insurance Companies (Phase III), alleging breach of numerous umbrella and excess liability policies. Sonat contended the insurance companies failed to pay certain environmental-remediation costs. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the insurers based on prior trials in Phases I and II of the case; Sonat appealed, and the insurers cross-appealed Phase III's outcome. Finding no abuse of the trial court's discretion, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "Certain Underwriters at Lloyd's, London v. Southern Natural Gas Company " on Justia Law
Oak Grove Resources, LLC v. White
Oak Grove Resources, LLC, and Cliffs North American Coal, LLC (Oak Grove) appealed a trial court's order in favor of class Plaintiffs finding that Oak Grove failed to satisfy the requirements of a settlement agreement between the parties, and ordered the continued monitoring of air near Plaintiffs' properties for the presence of coal dust for one year. Plaintiffs sued Oak Grove in 1997 alleging that it operated a preparation plant in a manner that caused coal dust to become airborne and to migrate to their properties, where it settled, causing them to suffer both personal injury and property damage. In October 2002, the parties entered into a settlement agreement the 2002 settlement agreement provided for certain injunctive relief and the payment of attorney fees and expenses. The injunctive relief required Oak Grove to complete 14 specific remedial measures within 24 months of the execution of the 2002 settlement agreement. Oak Grove implemented the remedial measures at the Concord plant following the trial court's approval of the 2002 settlement agreement. However, Plaintiffs continued to complain that the Concord plant emitted coal dust onto their properties and that the remedial measures had not satisfactorily solved the problem. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that no objection was raised by Plaintiffs to the site locations until two months after testing began in July 2009. Furthermore, Plaintiffs' expert did not visit the air-monitoring sites until January 2010. The Court concluded that Plaintiffs inexcusably delayed in asserting their rights under a 2008 supplement and that Oak Grove would be unduly prejudiced if Plaintiffs were allowed to assert those rights. The Court reversed the trial court's award of injunctive relief, and remanded the case for further proceedings. View "Oak Grove Resources, LLC v. White" on Justia Law
Roberts v. Hanceville Water Works & Sewer Board
Novus Utilities, Inc. sought a writ of mandamus from the Supreme Court to direct the Cullman Circuit Court to dismiss negligence and private-nuisance claims against it as time-barred. Eleven property owners residing in Cullman County sued Defendants the Hanceville Water Works & Sewer Board and Southwest Water Company, alleging that the defendants had allowed approximately two million gallons of untreated raw sewage from the sewage-treatment facility operated by the Board to be discharged into waterways in Cullman County. They alleged that on January 21, 30, and 31, 2008, the sewage treatment facility released the untreated raw sewage, and that release created a health hazard and damaged and devalued their property. Novus was added as a defendant to the suit as a subsidiary of Southwest. Novus moved to dismiss claims against it. After careful consideration, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court was correct in denying Novus' motion to dismiss, and denied its petition for a writ of mandamus to quash the trial court's judgment. View "Roberts v. Hanceville Water Works & Sewer Board" on Justia Law
Stephens v. Fines Recycling, Inc.
Defendants/Counterclaim Plaintiffs Charles Stephens and Stephens Properties, Inc. appealed a judgment entered on a jury verdict in favor of Fines Recycling, Inc. and its shareholders on claims stemming from a dispute over a commercial lease. Fines operated an scrap metal recycling business on Stephens' property. The State sent Fines a notice that it was illegally operating a solid waste dump on the property, and demanded the company cease operations until the waste was cleaned up. The shareholders pledged their stock to Stephens Properties as security for Fines' obligation to clean up the property. Following the completion of the cleanup, Stephens allegedly failed to return the stock certificates pledged by the Fines shareholders. The shareholders sued for the stocks' return; Stephens responded that the stock was subsequently used as a setoff for payment of back rent and other expenses relating to the cleanup. Upon review, the Supreme Court found that the trial court purported to certify its judgment as final, but that there were still pending counterclaims active in the case. The Court concluded that "the judgment on the jury verdict was not a final judgment, and, because of the nature of the pending issues, could not be transformed into a final judgment by a [final] certification." The Court reversed the trial court's certification and remanded the case for further proceedings.