Perc Costs Big
by Ron Davis
A company that leaked a hazardous dry-cleaning solution at a Georgia shopping center owes $350,000 to the center’s owners to pay cleanup costs.
The shopping center, Sprayberry Crossing, is located in the Atlanta area, and the company that leaked the hazardous solution is a supplier to local dry-cleaner businesses, including one that is a tenant of Sprayberry Crossing. That solution is perchlorethylene, known more familiarly as “perc.”
Evidence in the case shows that in delivering perc to the shopping center, the supplier often spilled between a half gallon and 10 gallons. Perc would sometimes leak from the supplier’s trucks into the parking lot of the shopping center. Delivery personnel also spilled perc inside the dry cleaners. As a result of the contamination, the shopping center’s owners incurred cleanup cost and, based on estimates, will continue to incur such costs well into the future. Moreover, contamination of the center’s soil and groundwater led to the property’s listing among the Georgia Hazardous Site Inventory.
The center’s owners eventually sued the perc supplier to recover “remediation” costs resulting from the contamination. A jury verdict in favor of the center’s owners required the supplier to pay $350,000 for cleanup.
The supplier appealed, however, arguing that evidence in the case could not establish that the supplier’s spills of perc were the direct cause of the contamination of the center property. The supplier also argued that the dry-cleaners tenant also contributed to the spillage. And a Georgia court agreed with the supplier. The shopping center’s owners then appealed.
The Georgia Court of Appeals sided with the shopping center’s owners, requiring the supplier to pay for cleanup. Explained the judges, “The evidence shows that the supplier spilled perc in the parking lot and inside the dry cleaners. While there was testimony that actions of the dry-cleaning business may also have contributed to the contamination, there was evidence from which the jury could conclude that the supplier spilled perc on many occasions and thus contributed to the contamination of the shopping center, even if the supplier’s spillage was not the sole cause of the contamination.” (Sprayberry Crossing Partnership v. Phenix Supply Co., 2005 WL 1621204 [Ga.App.])
Decision: July 2005
Published: August 2005