Former Users of Landfill Not Liable For Hazmat Exposure

Johnson v. Orleans Parish School Board, 938 So.2d 219 (La.App. 2006).

Residents of a community built on a former landfill filed a lawsuit against the City of New Orleans and the New Orleans Housing Authority, charging that they were exposed to hazardous substances because the defendants did not remove them from the site prior to developing it. The landfill, the Agriculture Street Landfill, was closed in 1958, and housing and a school were built on the site in the 1960s and 1970s. The plaintiffs also sued the Orleans Parish School Board for building a school on the allegedly contaminated site.

The School Board filed third-party complaints against various companies that it said had operated at the landfill or had improperly disposed of hazardous materials there. The companies included Edward Levy Metals Inc., Delta By-Products Inc and BFI Waste Systems of North America Inc. The School Board sought to hold these companies liable for at least part of any damages the School Board might be ordered to pay to the plaintiffs.

The Louisiana trial court ruled for the third-party defendants, and the School Board appealed to the state Court of Appeal. In upholding the lower court's ruling for Levy, Delta and BFI, the appellate court reasoned that "there is no duty on the part of the [third-party defendants] to prevent the School Board, a party as to which none of them had knowledge of plans to place a school on the site of a landfill that, at the time the School Board began construction, had lain fallow for more than two decades. "

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