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REDUCED BY 25% COMPARATIVE NEGLIGENCE Insurance Obligation – Failure of defendant fuel oil company to conduct proper inspection after called for first delivery in October – Rental house purchased in April equipped with gas furnace and unused oil tank – Oil leaks into basement and contaminates soil and groundwater in area – New Jersey Spill Act – Liability only – Bench trial.

Ocean County, NJ

The plaintiff insurance carrier of the homeowner sought $________ it already paid to clean contamination after fuel oil was pumped by the defendant fuel oil company into an unused oil tank, the lines exiting which had previously been cut. The action was brought under the New Jersey Spill Act that provides for a bench trial. Damages were stipulated.

The homeowner had purchased the home, used as rental property, in April. The home was heated by a gas furnace and a second, previously used oil tank was also on the property. The plaintiff contended that when the homeowner’s tenants asked him to call the fuel company in October because of the upcoming heating season, the homeowner forgot that the home was heated by gas. Before delivering to a first time customer, the defendant conducted an inspection and certified that the oil could be properly pumped into the tank.

The plaintiff contended that the defendant conducted a cursory inspection only and that the employee pumping the oil realized after pumping ________ gallons into the ________ gallon tank, that an error had occurred. The oil escaped from the tank and contaminated surrounding soil and ground water.

The defendant contended that the sole cause of the incident was the negligence of the plaintiff who ordered fuel oil for a gas heated home. The defendant also denied having an obligation to look at the tank’s lines and contended that by inspecting the tank itself, it adequately discharged its duties. The plaintiff countered that the defendant’s employee conducting the inspection should have seen that it was a gas furnace and realized there were no oil appliances in the house. This individual denied seeing the gas furnace.The court found the defendant 75%, leaving the fuel oil company liable for $________.

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