Contamination Claims Against BP, Union Oil Too Late

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The owner of a contaminated property waited too long to sue under Indiana hazardous waste law to recover cleanup costs from prior operators at the site, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled ( Schuchman/Samberg Invs., Inc. v. Hoosier Penn Oil Co., 2016 BL 252249, Ind. Ct. App., No. 49A02-1508-MI-1051, 8/4/16 ).

The suit by Schuchman/Samberg Investments Inc. is time barred under the six-year statute of limitations for property damage claims, the court said.

The court rejected the argument that the claim was for contribution, which would carry a 10-year statute of limitations.

“SSI is seeking recovery of costs incurred to remediate its own property. No amount of careful wording or clever analysis can transform what is so plainly a claim for damage to real property into one for contribution,” the court said.

The suit is therefore untimely because SSI had actual knowledge of the contamination by July 1998, but didn't file suit until November 2009, the court said.

The court also affirmed dismissal of a claim under the state petroleum release law because recovery under that statute is limited to costs incurred by the state.

SSI sought to recover cleanup costs for the Indianapolis site from former operators BP Corp. North America Inc., Hoosier Penn Oil Co., and Union Oil Co. of California.

Judge Robert R. Altice Jr. wrote the opinion, joined by Judges Margret Robb and Michael P. Barnes.

Hatchett & Hauck LLP represented SSI.

Wooden & Mclaughlin LLP represented BP.

Janzen Agircultural Law LLC represented Hoosier Penn.

Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP represented Union Oil.

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