How Towns Can Enforce Rights and Recoup Against Polluters

While most of the environmental contamination cases we have handled for decades involve representing the injured residents of a community against a polluter, more recently, the municipality itself has sought out representation for the harm brought upon the entire town due to the polluted site.

When a municipality allows industrial, commercial or retail uses within its borders it usually sees the new business as a potential creator of jobs, a stimulus to the local economy and a good tax ratable.  A municipality does not ask for, nor wish, its new business resident to foul its environment, destroy its natural resources, lower its tax base, interfere with the use and enjoyment of property and disrupt the daily activities of residents.  Many times the company will also move away, leaving behind a mess for the town.  However, by hiring private sector lawyers, the municipality now has a good chance of recovering what it has lost.

Several years ago we represented thousands of children and adults who played on a chromium contaminated baseball field in Jersey City, N.J.  The class action provided a successful result for all class members, including a thirty year program at a neighborhood hospital to monitor health effects.  Although the case had ended, facts established the same company had polluted an adjacent site delaying economic development for many years. We were subsequently hired by the City of Jersey City to seek the recovery of economic loss caused to the City from this company’s pollution.

Working for corporation counsel and then Mayor Healy, we pursued the economic damages suffered by the City, including reduced residential property values, delayed or denied economic development, and the substantial loss of productive use of property due to the chromium contamination.  We argued these damages affected the economic health and property tax base of the City.  Through a series of court opinions and expert testimony we were able to obtain a successful result and money flowed back into the City.  From the City’s perspective, there was never any downside as we provided the entire investigation and litigation on a contingent fee arrangement. Since then we have been approached more and more by municipalities to serve in this role.

As the N.J. Supreme Court famously held over thirty years ago, “those who poison the land must pay for its cure” (NJDEP v Ventron).  While it is clear long-standing contamination can jeopardize human and ecosystem health and safety, it can also cause or contribute much economic damage as well.  Ventron concerned the cleanup of contaminated property, but it’s sound philosophy can be applied to all damages stemming from a wrongdoer’s pollution. Anyone poisoning our land, must pay for all damages that result.

If you would like us to investigate whether your town or city has been economically impacted from environmental contamination and deserves compensation, please contact Locks Law Firm for a free consultation.

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