Murtaugh v. New York, 5:08-CV-1168

CourtUnited States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of New York
Writing for the CourtGlenn T. Suddaby
PartiesGAIL MURTAUGH, Individually and d/b/a Crosby Hill Auto Recycling; RICHARD R. MURTAUGH; MURTAUGH RECYCLING CORP.; RICHARD O. MURTAUGH; and FLOOD DRIVE PROPS., INC., Plaintiffs, v. STATE OF NEW YORK; PETE GRANNIS, Comm'r of Envtl. Conservation; CNTY. OF OSWEGO; BENJAMIN CONLON; RICHARD BRAZELL; MAUREEN LEARY; OP-TECH ENVTL. SERVS., INC.; WILLIAM SIMPSON; and ADM'R ANDREA RHONDA MILLER, Defendants,
Docket Number5:08-CV-1168
Decision Date16 August 2011

GAIL MURTAUGH, Individually and d/b/a Crosby Hill Auto Recycling;
RICHARD R. MURTAUGH; MURTAUGH RECYCLING CORP.; RICHARD O. MURTAUGH;
and FLOOD DRIVE PROPS., INC., Plaintiffs,
v.
STATE OF NEW YORK; PETE GRANNIS, Comm'r of Envtl.
Conservation;
CNTY. OF OSWEGO; BENJAMIN CONLON; RICHARD BRAZELL;
MAUREEN LEARY; OP-TECH ENVTL.
SERVS., INC.;
WILLIAM SIMPSON; and ADM'R ANDREA RHONDA MILLER, Defendants,

5:08-CV-1168

UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT NORTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK

Dated: August 16, 2011


(GTS/GHL)

APPEARANCES:

LAW OFFICE OF RICHARD J. BRICKWEDDE
Counsel for Plfs.
Gail Murtaugh, Richard R. Murtaugh
and Murtaugh Recycling Corp.

THE WLADIS LAW FIRM, PC
Counsel for Plfs.
Richard O. Murtaugh and Flood Dr.
PETRONE & PETRONE, PC
Counsel for Def.
County of Oswego

HANCOCKESTABROOK
Counsel for Defs.
Simpson and Op-Tech Envtl. Servs.

OF COUNSEL:

RICHARD J. BRICKWEDDE, ESQ.

KEVIN C. MURPHY, ESQ.

LORI E. PETRONE, ESQ.

DOREEN A. SIMMONS, ESQ.
JAMES P. YOUNGS, ESQ.

Page 2

HON. ERIC T. SCHNEIDERMAN
Attorney General for the State of New York
Counsel for Defs.
New York, Grannis, Conlon,
Brazell, Leary, and Miller

CHARLES QUACKENBUSH, ESQ.
SHOSHANAH BEWLAY, ESQ.
Assistant Attorneys General

HON. GLENN T. SUDDABY, United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM-DECISION and ORDER

Currently before the Court in this environmental action filed by Gail Murtaugh, Richard R. Murtaugh, Murtaugh Recycling Corp., Richard O. Murtaugh, and Flood Drive Properties, Inc. ("Plaintiffs") are the following three motions: (1) a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and failure to join indispensable parties, filed by Oswego County (hereinafter "County Defendant") (Dkt. No. 56, Attach. 30); (2) a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, filed by New York State, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner Pete Grannis, Benjamin Conlon, Richard Brazell, Maureen Leary, and Andrea Rhonda Miller (hereinafter "State Defendants") (Dkt. No. 59, Attach. 2); and (3) a motion to dismiss for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction and failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, filed by Op-Tech Environmental Services and William Simpson (hereinafter "Corporate Defendants") (Dkt. No. 60, Attach. 3). For the reasons set forth below, County Defendant's motion is granted in part and denied in part; State Defendants' motion is granted; and Corporate Defendants' motion is granted.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND..................................................5

A. Plaintiff's Claims............................................................................5
B. Defendants' Motions.....................................................................7
1. County Defendant's Motion.................................................................... 7
2. State Defendants' Motion....................................................................11
3. Corporate Defendants' Motion...................................................................17

II. RELEVANT LEGAL STANDARDS....................................................20

A. Standard Governing Dismissals for Failure to State a Claim...............................20
B. Standard Governing Dismissals for Lack of Subject-Matter Jurisdiction.....................20
C. Standard Governing Dismissals for Failure to Join Indispensable Party..............................21
D. Standards Governing Plaintiffs' Claims .....................................22

III. ANALYSIS..................................................................................23

A. Murtaugh Plaintiffs' CWA Claim...................................................23
1. Whether Murtaugh Plaintiffs' Claim Should Be Dismissed on the Ground of Lack of Standing, "Public Policy," Collateral Estoppel and/or Failure to Fulfill the Jurisdictional Notice Requirement...............23
2. Whether, in the Alternative, Murtaugh Plaintiffs Have Failed to Allege that, at the Time They Filed Their Complaint, There Was a Continuous or Intermittent Violation of the CWA and a Reasonable Likelihood that County Defendant Would Continue to Pollute.........................29
3. Whether, in the Alternative, Murtaugh Plaintiffs' Claim Should Be Dismissed for Failure to Join an Indispensable Party....................29
4. Whether, in the Alternative, the Eleventh Amendment Bars Murtaugh Plaintiffs' Claim Against Defendant Grannis...................................30

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B. Murtaugh Plaintiffs' RCRA Claims.........................................32
1. Claim Under 42 U.S.C. § 6972(a)(1)(A)..................................32
a. Whether Murtaugh Plaintiffs' Claim Should Be Dismissed on Grounds of Lack of Standing, "Public Policy," Collateral Estoppel and/or the Eleventh Amendment..................................32
b. Whether, in the Alternative, Murtaugh Plaintiffs Have Failed to Allege that, at the Time They Filed Their Complaint, County Defendant Was Accepting and/or Introducing Waste to the City Dump...................................................................37
2. Claim Under 42 U.S.C. § 6972(a)(1)(B)........................................37
C. Plaintiffs' CERCLA Claim...........................................................41
D. Plaintiffs' Civil Rights Claims Under 42 U.S.C. § 1983.....................................46
1. Due Process Claims Against Defendants Conlon, Brazell, and Leary Corporate Defendants..................................................................................46
2. Unlawful-Search-and-Seizure Claims Against Defendants Conlon, Brazell, and Leary and Corporate Defendants.............................................51
E. Plaintiff Gail Murtaugh's Due Process and Unlawful-Search-and-Seizure Claims Against Defendant Leary and Corporate Defendants.....................53
F. Plaintiffs' State Law Claims .........................................................56
1. Claim for Nuisance Against Defendant New York State, Defendant Grannis, and County Defendant............................................56
2. Claim for Declaratory Relief Against Defendant New York State, and Defendants Miller, Brazell, Conlon, and Leary.....................................62
3. Claim for Negligence Against Corporate Defendants...........................62
G. State Defendants' and Corporate Defendants' Abstention Arguments..................63

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I. RELEVANT BACKGROUND

A. Plaintiff's Claims

On October 30, 2008, Plaintiffs filed their Complaint in this action. (Dkt. No. 1.) On July 16, 2009, Plaintiffs filed an Amended Complaint. (Dkt. No. 46.) Generally, Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint asserts claims against Defendants arising from the alleged ownership and operation of the Old City of Fulton Dump (hereinafter "City Dump"), located at 40 Airport Drive, Fulton New York (hereinafter "County Property"), which allegedly has discharged, and continues to discharge, pollutants, hazardous substances and hazardous waste into the water of the United States and onto the property of Plaintiffs Gail Murtaugh and Flood Drive Properties, Inc. (Id.)

More specifically, Plaintiff's Amended Complaint asserts the following three claims by Plaintiffs Gail Murtaugh, Richard R. Murtaugh, and Murtaugh Recycling Corp. ("Murtaugh Plaintiffs"), against County Defendant and Defendant Grannis: (1) a claim of violation of the Clean Water Act ("CWA"), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251 et seq., based on the unlawful discharge of pollutants to an unnamed tributary of the Oswego River; (2) a claim of violation of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act ("RCRA"), 42 U.S.C. § 6972(a)(1)(A), based on the maintenance of an "open dump," which negatively impacts Murtaugh Plaintiffs and their real property and business operations; and (3) a claim of violation of RCRA, 42 U.S.C. § 6972(a)(1)(B), based on the handling, storage, treatment, transportation, or disposal of solid or hazardous waste contained on, at, or about the Old City of Fulton Dump (hereinafter "City Dump") located at 40 Airport Drive, Fulton New York (hereinafter "County Property"). (Id.)

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In addition, Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint asserts the following claims by all Plaintiffs against County Defendant, Defendant New York State, and Defendant Grannis: (1) a claim of violation of 42 U.S.C. § 9601 et seq., the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act ("CERCLA"), based on the releasing or threatened releasing of hazardous substances from, at, and about the City Dump; and (2) a state law claim for nuisance, based on the City Dump's discharge and release of leachate containing polluntants, hazardous substances, and hazardous wastes onto the real property located at 180 Flood Drive in the Town of Volney, Oswego County, New York (hereinafter "the Murtaugh Property") and the real property located at 170 Flood Drive, Town of Volney, Oswego County, New York (hereinafter the "Flood Property"). (Id.)

Finally, Plaintiffs' Amended Complaint asserts the following five claims against certain State Defendants and all Corporate Defendants arising from their entry onto Plaintiffs' properties, and removal of...

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