JUDGE DISMISSES ENVIRONMENTAL SUIT AGAINST CORPORATE OFFICER
Scarinci Hollenbeck Attorneys Show Personal Jurisdiction Not Automatic Following Corporate Actions in Environmental Case
Lyndhurst, N.J., August 15, 2012- Scarinci Hollenbeck was involved in a recent decision in the U.S. District Court of New Jersey that found corporate officers do not immediately fall under a Court's jurisdiction based on the jurisdiction it may have over the corporation.
The case was Virginia Street Fidelco, L.L.C. v. Orbis Products Corp., a CERCLA and New Jersey Spill Act case seeking environmental cost recovery relating to a former Orbis Products contaminated site at 55 Virginia Street in Newark, New Jersey.
In the amended complaint, Vernon G. Browne, a former financial vice president of Norda, Inc., Orbis Products' parent company, had been personally named as a defendant.
Scarinci Hollenbeck Attorneys William C. Sullivan and John M. Scagnelli, a Partner at Scarinci Hollenbeck and Chair of the firm's Environmental and Land Use Group, represented Mr. Browne. They asked the Court to dismiss the individual claim against Mr. Browne due to a lack of personal jurisdiction and insufficient service of process.
They held that Mr. Browne's limited contact with Orbis as part of his work as a corporate officer of Orbis’ parent company, Norda, Inc., did not create the personal jurisdiction necessary in this case, particularly because his name did not appear in any of the documentation relating to environmental issues at the property.
U.S. Judge Stanley Chesler of the District of New Jersey agreed. In his ruling, he said that the plaintiffs, "failed to provide anything to support the inference that Browne had any relevant contact with the forum, such that any claim arose out of that contact."
His ruling reaffirmed the position that each defendant's contacts with the forum state must be assessed individually, and do not necessarily follow a Court's jurisdiction over the company. Mr. Browne's attorneys applauded the decision.
"This ruling reaffirms clear limits on the level of responsibility placed on corporate officers for environmental law claims," said Scagnelli. "Any other ruling could have made every corporate officer personally liable for contamination regardless of their contact with those facilities."
The dismissal covered only the individual claim against Mr. Browne. The case at large remains open.
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