Type: Law Bulletins
Date: 03/04/2013

Federal Court Tosses San Diego's $250 Million Qualcomm Stadium Groundwater Contamination Lawsuit

Nothing serves as a death knell for lawsuits in federal court more often than exaggerated claims propped up by wobbly expert testimony.  This rang true for the City of San Diego’s lawsuit seeking approximately $250 million in damages from Kinder Morgan and its predecessor companies for the contamination of approximately 166 acres of City-owned land surrounding and underlying Qualcomm Stadium (the “Property”).  On January 25, 2013, the United States District Court for the Southern District of California entered summary judgment in favor of Kinder Morgan against all of the City’s claims.  California v. Kinder Morgan Energy Partners, L.P., et al., 2013 WL 314825 (Jan. 25, 2013)

The facts giving rise to City’s lawsuit showed that Kinder Morgan and its predecessors operated the Mission Valley Terminal, located next to the Property, since the 1960s.  The Mission Valley Terminal serves as the central hub for distributing gasoline in San Diego County.  As early as 1992, the City was on notice that Kinder Morgan and its predecessors released petroleum products into the soil, contaminating the Property and groundwater.  In 1992, the California Regional Water Quality and Control Board (“Water Board”) ordered the investigation and remediation of the contamination at the Mission Valley Terminal.  To comply with this order, Kinder Morgan and its predecessors spent approximately $60 million addressing the contamination.

Unhappy with the progress of the remediation, in 2007, the City sued Kinder Morgan and its predecessor alleging the petroleum releases from the Mission Valley Terminal contaminated the Property and damaged the City.  The City claimed approximately $250 million in damages, including $126 million in damages to remediate its water supply and $120 million in real estate “loss of use” damages. 

To learn more about this lawsuit, please read Bill Wagner's recent blog post on Commonground.

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