Practice Areas & Industries: Halloran & Sage LLP

 




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Practice/Industry Group Overview

Municipalities and governmental bodies encounter many diverse legal issues. Halloran & Sage is one of Connecticut’s leading law firms in representing municipalities and government agencies. Over the last 70 years, we have represented more than half of Connecticut's 169 cities and towns. We have served in the capacity of town attorney and special counsel, and have represented various municipalities and their officials, both directly and by virtue of insurance coverage.

Our extensive experience in this field ensures that we fully understand the nuances of municipal law, including the defenses available to our clients and the means by which they may avoid potential liability. In the complex and varied field of municipal law our clients benefit from the breadth and diversity of our firm. Whatever the client's legal needs, we are able to assemble a team of knowledgeable professionals. Our services include representation of municipalities and their officials, boards, commissions and employees in administrative proceedings and in litigation in both state and federal courts. We provide a full range of services based upon the municipality's needs.

With our experience and resources, we are uniquely qualified to help municipalities and their officials address the broad and challenging array of issues they face.

Local entitlements to facilitate 850+ parking garage with attendant office\retail\residential mixed use development as part of the Yale New Haven Hospital Cancer Center project in New Haven, CT also negotiated related utility easements, improvement maintenance agreements and leasing.

Represented municipal entity in the negotiation and acquisition of golf country club including management agreements, town meeting requirements and environmental transfer issues

Representation of municipalities during revaluation of real property and defense of town in subsequent assessment appeals for residential and commercial properties including personal property appeals.

Representation of municipalities in the collection of tax and sewer liens and FOIA proceedings.

H & S Obtains Favorable Result in Environmental Matter

Ann Catino, a partner in the Environmental and Land Use Group, and Joseph Fortner, Jr., a partner in the Business and Commercial Litigation Group, of Halloran & Sage recently secured a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, disposing of virtually all claims asserted against its municipal client in an environmental class action. This decision is a substantial victory for municipalities and for clients who undertake investigation and remedial responsibilities pursuant to a Consent Order with an administrative agency.

In Collins, et al. v. Olin Corp., et al., 3:03CV945 (CFD), the Town of Hamden was sued by some of its residents, who claimed that their homes had been built on locations used as dumps in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The plaintiffs sued the Town, and the successor of the company which allegedly generated and disposed of industrial waste. Their claims included certain common law and statutory claims for damages and injunctive relief, including claims for negligence, abnormally dangerous activity, recklessness, nuisance and other specific claims arising various state and federal environmental laws. The plaintiffs filed their action immediately after a Consent Order was entered by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection between the Town, the company co-defendant, and certain other parties DEP alleged to be responsible for the environmental conditions existing at a middle school, public parks and approximately 300 homes. The Consent Order allocated responsibility among the parties and provided that the Town was to investigate and remediate only the public parks; Olin was to investigate and remediate the residential neighborhood. The residents, proposing class status, requested the Court to essentially undue the allocation of responsibility set forth in the Consent Order and requested the Town to undertake investigation and remediation of the very conditions that were covered in the DEP administrative proceeding. Halloran & Sage moved to dismiss all claims ordering the Town to undertake such actions, and, while the motion to dismiss was pending, also moved for partial summary judgment precluding any assessment of damages against the town under the doctrine of governmental immunity.

In his decision dated February 28, 2006, the Hon. Christopher Droney, U.S.D.J., ruled in favor of the Town on both motions. First, the court dismissed the claims for injunctive relief under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction. The Court readily acknowledged that the lawsuit would largely undue the allocation of responsibility set forth in the Consent Order and that the decisions required for proper remediation of the properties are more properly within the environmental agency's field of expertise and discretion.

The court next granted summary disposition of the claims alleging negligence, gross negligence, negligence per se, and negligent infliction of emotional distress, on the grounds that the doctrine of governmental immunity barred those claims and any claims for damages. While the plaintiffs had been given an opportunity to search for any evidence reflecting that the Town engaged in a proprietary function in allegedly permitting the filling of waste materials in the low-lying areas, the court concluded that the historical Town records indisputably show that any filling activities or control of filling by the Town occurred to redress and control mosquito breeding places and the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses. Further, the plaintiffs could not demonstrate that the Town received any proprietary benefit from the development of homes, parks and a school other than the general benefits arising from the normal growth and development of a residential community. Fees from building permits, certificates of occupancy or even an enhanced tax base were not considered by the Court to represent proprietary acts. Similarly, despite plaintiffs' best efforts to create a factual dispute about the Town's "recklessness," in allowing such filling and future development, the court noted that the Town needed to control landfilling and garbage collection and disposal activities primarily to address issues of health and safety present at the time and that there was no evidence at the relevant time that this landfill material posed a health or safety threat to later developers. Thus, with the exception of a single claim under CERCLA (regarding which a motion has yet to be filed), all substantive claims against the Town have been effectively dismissed.

The significance of the decision lies in (1) the court's discussion of the application of governmental immunity and whether a municipality can be sued for disposal and filling activities that happens within the municipality when any such activity allegedly permitted or conducted by the Town is for the benefit of its citizens at the time and (2) that a party to a Consent Order cannot be required to perform a clean up independent of or separate from any agreements (eg., a Consent Order) that party has with DEP.

Successful Outcome/ Representative Reported Decision: Picco et al. v. Town of Voluntown, et al, Conn.(2010)

The first named plaintiff claimed to have been injured after a portion of a tree fell on top of her while she was watching a soccer game at a field she claimed was owned, maintained and/or controlled by the town of Voluntown and/or its Board of Education. As such, she, her husband and two children brought a lawsuit against the town of Voluntown and certain named town officials and the Board of Education of the town of Voluntown and certain named board officials. The seventy count complaint purported to state claims sounding in negligence, nuisance, loss of consortium and bystander emotional distress. Halloran & Sage represented the town and its officials.

At the trial court level, Halloran & Sage moved to strike all of the plaintiffs' claims against the town, asserting that they were barred by the doctrine of governmental immunity. At oral argument before the trial court, the plaintiffs conceded that the motion to strike should be granted on all counts except those alleging nuisance. Thereafter, the trial court concluded that the nuisance claims were likewise barred because the plaintiffs did not allege any facts indicating that the town, by any positive act, created the alleged nuisance. The trial court entered judgment accordingly.

The plaintiffs then appealed and, after transferring the case to itself, the Connecticut Supreme Court affirmed the trial court's judgment. In doing so, it analyzed and interpreted the language of Connecticut General Statute § 52-557n(a)(1)(c), a section of the statute it had not previously had occasion to review. The Connecticut Supreme Court specifically concluded that the plain language of that section clearly and unambiguously precludes liability in nuisance against a municipal defendant unless the alleged nuisance was created by a positive act of the defendant. Thus, the plaintiffs' failure to allege any positive act of creation in relation to their claims was fatally defective.

Robert Rhodes Obtains Favorable Judgment For Town of New Milford

Robert Rhodes recently obtained a favorable judgment in favor of the town of New Milford. A Hartford district court judge dismissed a lawsuit filed against New Milford by a resident who claimed that actions of the town and its zoning officials had violated his constitutional right to due process under the law and initially sought $125 million in damages.

The court decided that the substantive due process claim was unsupported by the facts, and the court entered judgment in favor of the town and its employees on that claim, and then dismissed the remaining state court claims for lack of federal jurisdiction.

Presnick v. Town of Orange

Halloran & Sage represented a municipality in a case where a protestor was arrested for criminal trespass when he refused to leave a meeting of board of selectmen as it went into private session. The protestor brought federal civil rights and state law claims against the Town and various officials. The District Court held that the plaintiff's Fourth Amendment rights to be free of false arrest were not violated, and the arrest did not violate the protestor's First Amendment rights. The Court also ruled that Connecticut's open meeting law's definition was not unconstitutionally vague and the arrest did not violate plaintiff's equal protection rights. The defendant's motion for summary judgment was granted.

CRRA v. Wheelabrator

Represented quasi-governmental agency in an arbitration commenced in the midst of contract renewal negotiations concerning a long term solid waste disposal agreement at a waste to energy plant, to enforce the terms of the original contract's renewal provision.

* Decision by May 2007

H & S Obtains Approval for an On-Site Wastewater Treatment System

Larry Weisman and Ann Catino recently obtained a favorable ruling from the Department of Environmental Protection ("DEP") for an on-site wastewater treatment system. The decision recommended approval of an application for an engineered sub-surface system with a design capacity of 34,000 gallons per day to support a proposed 102,000 square foot new YMCA facility serving the Towns of Westport and Weston, CT.

A tentative determination regarding the application was originally issued in May, 2006, but upon receipt of a petition,extensive, contested public hearings were held. After considering the testimony and information offered at the hearings and evaluating the merits of the project, the DEP hearing officer concluded that the discharge that would result if the installation were to receive a permit would adequately protect the waters of the state

Uniroyal Chemical Company v. Town of Middlebury, 2006 WL 962210 (2d Cir. 2006)

In a major Superfund clean-up case, the court upheld the allocation of interest on clean-up costs on a pro-rate basis, consistent with the allocation of the underlying costs.

H & S Obtains a Summary Disposition of Claims Against Municipal Client

Ann Catino, a partner in the Environmental and Land Use Group, and Joseph Fortner, Jr., a partner in the Business and Commercial Litigation Group, of Halloran & Sage recently secured a ruling from the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut, disposing of virtually all claims asserted against its municipal client in an environmental class action. This decision is a substantial victory for municipalities and for clients who undertake investigation and remedial responsibilities pursuant to a Consent Order with an administrative agency.

In Collins, et al. v. Olin Corp., et al., 3:03CV945 (CFD), the Town of Hamden was sued by some of its residents, who claimed that their homes had been built on locations used as dumps in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The plaintiffs sued the Town, and the successor of the company which allegedly generated and disposed of industrial waste. Their claims included certain common law and statutory claims for damages and injunctive relief, including claims for negligence, abnormally dangerous activity, recklessness, nuisance and other specific claims arising various state and federal environmental laws. The plaintiffs filed their action immediately after a Consent Order was entered by the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection between the Town, the company co-defendant, and certain other parties DEP alleged to be responsible for the environmental conditions existing at a middle school, public parks and approximately 300 homes. The Consent Order allocated responsibility among the parties and provided that the Town was to investigate and remediate only the public parks; Olin was to investigate and remediate the residential neighborhood. The residents, proposing class status, requested the Court to essentially undue the allocation of responsibility set forth in the Consent Order and requested the Town to undertake investigation and remediation of the very conditions that were covered in the DEP administrative proceeding. Halloran & Sage moved to dismiss all claims ordering the Town to undertake such actions, and, while the motion to dismiss was pending, also moved for partial summary judgment precluding any assessment of damages against the town under the doctrine of governmental immunity.

In his decision dated February 28, 2006, the Hon. Christopher Droney, U.S.D.J., ruled in favor of the Town on both motions. First, the court dismissed the claims for injunctive relief under the doctrine of primary jurisdiction. The Court readily acknowledged that the lawsuit would largely undue the allocation of responsibility set forth in the Consent Order and that the decisions required for proper remediation of the properties are more properly within the environmental agency's field of expertise and discretion.

The court next granted summary disposition of the claims alleging negligence, gross negligence, negligence per se, and negligent infliction of emotional distress, on the grounds that the doctrine of governmental immunity barred those claims and any claims for damages. While the plaintiffs had been given an opportunity to search for any evidence reflecting that the Town engaged in a proprietary function in allegedly permitting the filling of waste materials in the low-lying areas, the court concluded that the historical Town records indisputably show that any filling activities or control of filling by the Town occurred to redress and control mosquito breeding places and the spread of mosquito-borne illnesses. Further, the plaintiffs could not demonstrate that the Town received any proprietary benefit from the development of homes, parks and a school other than the general benefits arising from the normal growth and development of a residential community. Fees from building permits, certificates of occupancy or even an enhanced tax base were not considered by the Court to represent proprietary acts. Similarly, despite plaintiffs' best efforts to create a factual dispute about the Town's "recklessness," in allowing such filling and future development, the court noted that the Town needed to control landfilling and garbage collection and disposal activities primarily to address issues of health and safety present at the time and that there was no evidence at the relevant time that this landfill material posed a health or safety threat to later developers. Thus, with the exception of a single claim under CERCLA (regarding which a motion has yet to be filed), all substantive claims against the Town have been effectively dismissed.

The significance of the decision lies in (1) the court's discussion of the application of governmental immunity and whether a municipality can be sued for disposal and filling activities that happens within the municipality when any such activity allegedly permitted or conducted by the Town is for the benefit of its citizens at the time and (2) that a party to a Consent Order cannot be required to perform a clean up independent of or separate from any agreements (eg., a Consent Order) that party has with DEP.

Brown v. East Haddam, 2000 WL 536156 (2nd Cir. 2000).

In a civil rights case brought by the mother of a high school student, the district court held the defendant town could not be held liable for reporting the mother's suspected abuse of her daughter.  On appeal, Halloran & Sage successfully defended the district court's decision, with the Second Circuit holding that the established constitutional right to family integrity does not include a right to be free from child abuse investigations.

Counsel for Superfund Litigation

Halloran & Sage attorneys served as lead joint defense counsel for the general waste stream defendants and co-defense counsel for the municipal defendants in the private cost recovery trial of the two most notorious Superfund sites in the state, the Beacon Heights and Laurel Park landfills. During the course of the trial and in further proceedings before the Federal District Court, we became lead counsel for all 20+ municipalities involved in this litigation. The trial, which spanned six months, involved presenting novel cost-allocation models for the apportionment of the clean-up costs among all parties. Our representation included numerous appeals to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals and relitigating certain unique issues upon remand, such as the calculation of pre-judgment and post-judgment interest under CERCLA and the effect of deposits made to the federal court registry on the calculation of interest. Our involvement in this case gave us unparalleled experience in municipal commercial and industrial liability issues arising under federal and state law relating to municipal solid waste, landfill operation and closure and Superfund liability.


 
 
Articles Authored by Lawyers at this office:

Connecticut Bioscience Research Fund
Henry M. Beck, August 21, 2013
By Public Act 13-239 (the “Act”), Connecticut’s legislature created a $200 million fund to spur bioscience research and development in the State. The Act will provide financial assistance to start-up companies and people who are making new discoveries in research and development...