Nuisance, Trespass & Negligence Claims Require Expert Opinion Regarding Contamination

Friday, March 30, 2018 3:59 am
April 2018 - Volume 46 Number 4

A trial court dismissed a suit brought by a landowner against the Tennessee Valley Authority for alleged contamination caused by a 2008 coal ash spill because the landowner’s only evidence of contamination was personal, non-scientific opinion.

Facts: In 2008, more than a billion gallons of sludge poured out of a container owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The sludge contained coal ash, a byproduct of coal-fired power plants that contains heavy metals and is considered a pollutant.

At the time of the spill, James Ryan lived about 2.8 miles northwest of the spill site and about half a mile from the Emory River, where much of the sludge ended up. Ryan alleged that the coal ash "physically invaded and contaminated" land near his property, which caused his property value to drop along with his use and enjoyment of the property. He sued TVA for nuisance, trespass, and negligence. In depositions, Ryan admitted that he had not had any scientific testing done [..]