North Carolina Business Litigation Report

Adams v. A.J. Ballard Jr. Tire and Oil Co., 2006 NCBC 9 (N.C. Super. Ct. June 20, 2006)(Tennille)

As the Court framed the issues, this case concerned: (a) whether refiners may be held liable for underground storage tank leaks or spills at sites they do not own (it held they could not), (b) what causes of action and statutes of limitation and repose apply to leaks or spills that contaminate drinking water under adjacent property (a cause of action does not arise until the contamination exceeds maximum concentration under state regulations, and a three year statute of limitations and a six year statute of repose applies, and regardless of the date of injury, all claims are barred by a ten year statute of repose) , and (c) what state regulations determine when drinking water is contaminated (it is not a question of taste and odor, it is when the concentration levels exceed state standards). The statutes of repose began to run at the time of the release.

Taste and odor is not the threshhold for giving rise to a cause of action. The doctrine of res ipsa loquitor was not applicable, as plaintiff could not establish that the defendant was the only possible tort feasor.

Plaintiff's fraud claim was barred by the Noerr-Pennington doctrine, as the allegedly fraudulent statements were made by the defendants while petitioning while lobbying the federal government for the approval of an additive to gasoline.

Full Opinion

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Mack Sperling
Brooks Pierce, LLP
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