Baker Sterchi Cowden & Rice obtained a defense verdict against the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and the Missouri Office of the Attorney General after a two-week jury trial in Jackson County, Missouri at Kansas City.
BSCR’s client, Zill, LLC, has operated the Inner City Oil gas station in Kansas City, Missouri since 2003. In the 5-count Petition for Injunctive Relief, Civil Penalties, Costs, and Damages against Zill, plaintiff alleged Zill controlled and released petroleum in 2006 and “sometime” in 2015 in such a manner so as to contaminate groundwater and soil and cause vapor intrusion into homes and structures in the area. Plaintiff alleged this caused a hazardous substance emergency that Zill failed to remedy. Defendant at all times maintained that it did not control or release the petroleum that caused the hazardous substance emergency.
Plaintiff sought injunctive relief to force Zill to clean up the alleged hazardous substance emergency, cost reimbursement for plaintiffs’ investigation and clean-up in the amount of $203,000, punitive damages of $609,000 for a willful violation of Missouri law, and civil penalties of up to $5,000,000 for violations of the Missouri Underground and Petroleum and Storage Tank Law.
Four days before trial, plaintiff dismissed two counts requesting injunctive relief, unspecified cost recovery, damages, and civil penalties for violations of the Missouri Clean Water Law. At the close of plaintiffs’ evidence, the Court granted defendant’s motion for a directed verdict on plaintiffs’ claims for punitive damages and civil penalties.
The jury, in returning a verdict for the defense, unanimously agreed Zill did not control the petroleum involved in the hazardous substance emergency.