Defendant landscaper and its insurer were liable as a matter of law under Nav. Law article 12 for oil spill caused by Landscaper’s severing fuel oil lines to homeowners’ house.

Defendant landscaper and its insurer were liable as a matter of law under Nav. Law article 12 for oil spill caused by Landscaper’s severing fuel oil lines to homeowners’ house.

In the plaintiff-homeowners’ action for clean-up costs due to a fuel-oil spill, the Second Department affirmed summary judgment to plaintiff homeowners against defendants Landscaper and its Insurer.  The Landscaper’s employee had severed an underground fuel line to plaintiffs’ home while repairing a sprinkler system and shortly thereafter, plaintiffs began experiencing problems with their home heating system.  Plaintiffs called defendant Oil Company, which sent a technician who inspected the heating system and found no problem.  The Oil Company thereafter delivered 700 gallons of fuel oil to plaintiffs’ home which discharged into the ground.

The Second Department affirmed summary judgment to plaintiffs against the Landscaper and its Insurer under Nav. Law §181(1), which mandates strict liability for clean-up costs against a person who has “discharged petroleum”.  Under Navigation Law article 12, “discharge” includes “any intentional or unintentional action or omission resulting in the releasing, spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying or dumping of petroleum”, and plaintiff was entitled to sue not only the discharger but also the discharger’s insurer.

The Landscaper admitted that its employee severed the line, and the Insurer tacitly conceded insurance coverage for the incident.  Defendants failed to create an issue of fact by questioning the depth of the fuel lines and lack of warning signs, because there was no evidence of any leaks or defects with the heating system or fuel lines before the lines were severed.  Defendants’ contention that discovery was needed on those issues was speculative.

Bennett v. State Farm Fire & Cas. Co., 2016 NY Slip Op. 01452 (2d Dep’t March 2, 2016)
http://www.courts.state.ny.us/reporter/3dseries/2016/2016_01452.htm

About Eileen Buholtz

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...
and oh, if you want a pic to show with your comment, go get a gravatar!

 

*