Saturday, December 1, 2012
NEW JERSEY SCHOOLS DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY VS. JOSEPH MARCANTUONE, ET AL. A-1868-10T3
NEW JERSEY SCHOOLS DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY VS. JOSEPH
MARCANTUONE, ET AL.
Plaintiff New Jersey Schools Development Authority provided
the funding for the City of East Orange to acquire by
condemnation environmentally contaminated real property owned by
defendants Joseph Marcantuone and Robert Gieson. Pursuant to
Housing Authority of New Brunswick v. Suydam Investors, 177 N.J.
2 (2003), funds representing the estimated cost of remediation
of the land were held in escrow pending a final determination on
liability under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control
Act, N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11 to -23.24.
Relying on our decision in White Oak Funding, Inc. v.
Winning, 341 N.J. Super. 294 (App. Div.), certif. denied, 170
N.J. 209 (2001), the trial court held defendants were not liable
as a matter of law for the cost of remediation because they were
not "in any way responsible" for the contamination. The court
also held that defendants were not the current owners of the
property at the time the contamination was discovered because
plaintiff had previously been vested with title as condemnor
under N.J.S.A. 20:3-19.
We reverse the trial court and hold that our decision in
White Oak was in part implicitly superseded by the 2001
amendments to the Spill Act creating the "innocent purchaser"
defense codified at N.J.S.A. 58:10-23.11g(d)(5). We remand for
the court to determine whether defendants can establish, by a
preponderance of the evidence, the four elements of the
"innocent purchaser" defense. We also hold that in a postcondemnation
proceeding to determine Spill Act liability under
Suydam, defendants are deemed the "current owners" of the
property, notwithstanding N.J.S.A. 20:3-19. 10-29-12