Is a Company Which Repairs the Tank Liable for Oil Discharge ?
In Domermuth Petroleum Equip. & Maintenance Corp. v. Herzog & Hopkins, 111 AD2d 957, 958-959 [3d Dept 1985], the Appellate Division held that an oil delivery company, which company had recently repaired the tank, could be held liable as a discharger by reason that it "set in motion the events which resulted in the discharge."
In that instance the fuel oil tank had ruptured, discharging its contents into the basement of a residence.
In Premier Natl. Bank v. Effron Fuel Oil Co. (182 Misc 2d 169 [Sup Ct, Dutchess County 1999]) a fuel oil supplier had delivered oil into an above-ground tank. a hose had been attached to the tank by a prior owner for use in redistribution of fuel oil to another tank.
A discharge occurred in which fuel oil spilled out through the hose onto the ground.
The court held that the fuel oil supplier could be held liable as a discharger, since it had set in motion the events which resulted in the discharge (citing Domermuth, supra).
In all of the above cases some additional factor was involved which in some fashion connected the petroleum supplier to the spill.
It was not the act of delivery alone which set in motion the events which resulted in the discharge.
By comparison, the rationale for holding the owner of the system liable (even where the owner is innocent) is well stated in Matter of White v. Regan (171 AD2d 197, 200-201 [3d Dept 1991], quoting Quaker State Corp. v. United States Coast Guard, 681 F Supp 280, 285):