Superior court

December 14, 2012

Sealed settlement on Washington County drilling lawsuit to be reconsidered

Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, December 8, 2012
Posted on:

A state appellate court ordered a Washington County court Friday to consider hearing arguments to unseal records in a case in which a Washington County family claimed it was harmed by nearby gas drilling.

Stephanie and Chris Hallowich sued Range Resources, MarkWest Energy Partners and Williams Gas/Laurel Mountain Midstream Partners, claiming that gas drilling operations harmed their health and property value.

The parties formalized a settlement in August 2011 during a private meeting in Judge Paul Pozonsky’s chambers, after which the case file was sealed.

A reporter from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette objected to the closed-door proceeding, and the paper filed a petition a week later to intervene in the case and to unseal the record. The Washington Observer-Reporter filed a similar request, and the judge denied those requests in February.

Superior Court Judges Judith Olson, Paula Ott and James Fitzgerald wrote in the decision issued Friday that Judge Pozonsky erred in denying the papers’ requests to intervene and argue that case file should be unsealed.

Judge Pozonsky unexpectedly retired this summer, about a month after the president judge stripped him of his ability to handle criminal cases.

Frederick N. Frank, the attorney representing the Post-Gazette, said he plans to file a motion early next week requesting a hearing be held quickly on requests to unseal the records.

“We’re very pleased that the Superior Court agreed,” he said. “We continue to believe that there is a strong constitutional and common law right of access to the record.”

Representatives for the drilling companies could not be reached for comment Friday night.


January 31, 2012

Franklin Township wins dispute with insurance carrier over coverage for Kiddie Kollege litigation

Source:, January 27, 2012
By: Carly Q. Romalino

An insurance dispute related to municipal coverage in the Kiddie Kollege toxic exposure trial ended in favor of Franklin Township after months of arbitration talks with its environmental issue insurance carrier that attempted to revoke coverage.

In a 2-1 vote, a panel of three arbiters decided that Franklin Township would remain covered by the New Jersey Environmental Risk Management Fund (EJIF) for four years of litigation in the Kiddie Kollege case and a subsequent trial in which Franklin was a defendant.

“It’s an absolute relief,” said Mayor Joseph Petsch. “The insurance company tried to deny coverage and the courts have determined we had coverage … We’re elated, we’re happy. We always believed the coverage was in place.”

The township filed a claim with the EJIF in 2006 after the state Department of Environmental Protection suddenly shut down Kiddie Kollege, a former thermometer factory-turned-day care center, where children were exposed to toxic levels of mercury vapor for two years.

EJIF chose an attorney to represent the township in the years of litigation leading up to a class action trial in 2010, where attorneys argued that children who were exposed to mercury vapors should receive medical monitoring.

Months before the trial was set to go before a Superior Court judge, EJIF notified Franklin Township that it’s $1 million policy for attorney fees had dwindled down to $250,000, as part of Franklin’s eroding policy limits.…

August 15, 2011

Court: Former owner of tainted daycare responsible for cleanup

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, August 11, 2011
Posted on:

The family that purchased a contaminated former thermometer factory in Gloucester County and converted it into the Kiddie Kollege day care in 2004 is liable for the roughly $1 million New Jersey paid to clean up and demolish the building under an appeals court ruling issued today.

The ruling overturns a trial court decision that said Jim Sullivan 3d and relatives were not liable because the Franklin Township tax collector had not informed them the vacant building was contaminated before they bought it through a tax sale and foreclosure.

An Environmental Protection Report the Sullivans received from the town prior to their purchase “should have at least alerted them” to the possibility the building was contaminated, according to the panel. It is up to purchasers to find out if a property needs remediation, the court said in a published 21-page decision.

Sullivan, a former Franklin Township real estate broker who turned the building into a day care attended by 100 infants and children, last year agreed to settle a lawsuit the children’s parents brought against him for $1 million.

But state Superior Court Judge James Rafferty had voided the Sullivan family’s deed to the building, which freed them of the responsibility of paying for the clean-up and demolition.

“We’re very disappointed in this decision and are assessing our options,” Richard Hluchan, the Sullivan family’s lawyer, said today. He would not say whether an appeal would be filed.

M. James Maley Jr., who represented Franklin, could not reached for comment.…

May 27, 2011

Wife of man who died in vat of sewer sludge wins appeal .

Source:, May 26, 2011

The Washington State Supreme Court upheld a ruling against an engineering firm that it was negligent in the horrific death of a man who fell into a vat of hot sewer sludge in an accident at the Spokane wastewater treatment plant in 2004.

On May 10, 2004 a digester dome at the plant collapsed. The collapse dropped worker Mike Cmos into the vat of 100-degree sewer sludge, where he drowned.

Two other workers were hurt. Dan Evans was thrown 30 feet from the top of the dome and drenched with sludge. Larry Michaels was on the ground nearby and was knocked down by the wave of sludge. Both suffered serious injuries.

The two survivors and the wife of Mike Cmos sued the engineering firm, CH2M, that was contracted by the plant for negligence, along with the CH2M program manager on site, Kelly Irving. The victims won in 2008 after a three week bench trial in Spokane County Superior Court. In writing his decision, Judge Robert Austin said, “Mike Cmos arguably suffered one of the most disgusting and terrible deaths imaginable.”

On Thursday morning the State Supreme Court issued their ruling against CH2M’s appeal of Austin’s ruling and agreed with Austin’s findings.

The Supreme Court agreed with Austin that CH2M was not immune from being sued for negligence under the Industrial Insurance Act.

The victims in the lawsuit accused CH2M of changing the flow of sewage at the plant, but never telling city employees. The victims believe that changing the flow helped cause the digester dome to overflow and collapse.

The lawsuit labeled CH2M negligent in its engineering, management and design of sewage plant upgrades.

In 2007 when the lawsuit was filed the Cmos family told KREM 2 News they wanted money to cover funeral expenses, loss of income and benefits, pain and suffering and loss of enjoyment of life. They did not specify a dollar amount.…

September 1, 2010

Brookdale Inn and Spa owner pays $17,000 for dead fish but is slapped with lawsuit from employees

Acknowledgement to Ironshore Environmental

Santa Cruz Sentinel, Calif.

Apr. 17–SANTA CRUZ — The owner of the Brookdale Inn and Spa will pay nearly $17,000 after one of his employees poured chemicals into a storm drain in 2008, killing about 50 endangered steelhead trout as they swam through Clear Creek in the lodge’s famous dining room.

But new problems continue to pop up at the beleaguered inn, as Santa Cruz attorney Jonathan Gettleman on Wednesday served Kakkar with yet another lawsuit. This one alleged a host of unfair work practices on behalf of eight former employees.…