Monday, November 25, 2013

Acme Laundry Co. v. Secretary of Environmental Affairs case brief

Acme Laundry Co. v. Secretary of Environmental Affairs case brief summary
575 N.E.2d 1086 (Mass. 1991)

Plaintiff business brought claims against defendant, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Quality Engineering, in the Superior Court Department (Massachusetts), asserting that the department wrongfully placed a lien against the business' property for cleanup costs due to oil-contaminated soil. Both parties moved for summary judgment, the trial court granted the department a judgment, and the business appealed.

The business, which was a laundry facility, claimed that the state, through the department, could not claim costs, because there was an agreement that the contaminated soil would be cleaned up, the imposition of a lien was contrary to the language of the Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Material Release Prevention Act (Act), specifically at Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21E, and no cleanup had occurred so no assessment could be made.


  • The court affirmed the summary judgment for the department and held that under the Act, the department could make an assessment of the extent of the contamination and could assess costs for the cleanup against the business. 
  • The court further held that under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 21E, § 13 (1990) the department had the authority to impress a lien upon the property to collect the costs and that under Mass. Regs. Code title 310, § 40.170 (2), (3) the business could remove the lien, if it needed to sell any of the property to pay for the cleanup, by providing an alternative security for the cleanup costs.
The court affirmed the summary judgment for the department, because the department was entitled to recover the assessment of cleanup costs from the business and the department was authorized by the statutory scheme to impress a lien on the property of the business to assure that the costs were paid.

Recommended Supplements and Study Aids for Property Law

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