Friday, May 13, 2011

Legal Challenges in Property Contamination Cases Require Careful Handling

by Duane Craig

Property contamination very often extends beyond the property’s boundaries and affects the environment both above and below ground. This adds a level of complexity to remediating the contamination if the party that is potentially responsible for it ends up going bankrupt.

In his detailed blog post Larry Schnapf, an environmental attorney, gives a rundown of the basic bankruptcy process and then gets into the environmental aspects. Chief among his cautions is that property creditors have to file a proof of claim that includes an estimate of the value of their claim. If a claim is not filed the creditor won’t usually be able to recover their costs of cleanup. His post regarding the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority being unable to recover cleanup costs from the bankrupt Boston & Marine Corp. details the amount of flex there seems to be in cases such as these.

But, that doesn’t mean the company going bankrupt can necessarily walk away without being held accountable since environmental law tends to look backward with more vengeance than bankruptcy law. Schnapf outlines the case involving Apex and the Clark Oil & Refining Corp. dispute over a vapor intrusion case that further illustrates how these cases evolve in complexity.

The record seems to show that the intricacies of bringing claims for environmental remediation require a skilled hand with knowledge in many facets of environmental, corporate and financial law. Since these kinds of damages can easily threaten lives and get into six figures in remediation costs the caution to anyone with property contamination is to act soon, and act with competent representation.

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