United States District Court, District of Columbia
BERMAN JACKSON UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
are residents of the Riggs Park community located in
northeast Washington, D.C. who, proceeding pro se,
have filed a complaint against the State of Maryland Attorney
General, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and
Chevron U.S.A., Inc., that includes multiple state and
federal claims, including nuisance, trespass, intentional
infliction of emotional distress, fraudulent concealment,
discrimination, and conspiracy, among others. The action
arises out of a gas leak that occurred almost 30 years ago at
a Chevron gas station in Chillum, Maryland, just north of the
Riggs Park neighborhood. Plaintiffs allege that as a result
of the gas leak, toxic chemicals migrated through the soil to
their properties, adversely affecting their property values
and their health.
defendants have filed motions to dismiss. Because
plaintiffs' claims are barred by the doctrine of res
judicata, and they fall well outside the applicable
statute of limitations, the Court will grant defendants'
to the complaint, on October 2, 1989, “a Chevron
employee reported to Chevron that a car . . . collided into a
pump dispenser” at a service station located in
Chillum, Maryland. Compl. [Dkt. # 1] ¶ 66, 69. After
this collision, a contractor was brought in to repair the
damage. Id. ¶ 69. He reported to the Maryland
Department of the Environment that there was an underground
release of petroleum products. Id. Later that month,
Chevron hired Hunter Services, an engineering and
environmental firm, to “conduct a preliminary
environmental assessment” of the release. Id.
¶ 70. Hunter Services issued a report on February 23,
1990, noting that plaintiffs' properties, which were
located just south of the station, were “sensitive
receptors” of the gas release. Id.
allege that Chevron did not undertake to investigate how the
Riggs Park population would be affected by the release of
hazardous chemicals into the soil near their properties.
Compl. ¶ 76. In March 1991, Chevron installed off-site
monitoring wells east of the station in Maryland, but it did
not install wells in the Riggs Park neighborhood.
Id. ¶ 77. On a quarterly basis since 1993,
samples have been collected from these wells and analyzed for
chemicals such as “BTEX, ” “MTBE, ”
and “Halogenated Aliphatic Hydrocarbons.”
Id. ¶¶ 78- 79, 82, 84, 86, 89. These
samples showed that additional petroleum releases occurred in
1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, and 2000, although plaintiffs were
notified only after the last release in 2000. Id.
in August 2000, the Chevron gas station shut down overnight
and residents of Riggs Park notified the State of Maryland,
who sent an inspector to the site. Compl. ¶ 91.
The inspector found that gasoline had filled an entire
monitoring well, and he stated that he would notify Chevron
and the District of Columbia that a release had occurred.
Id. Chevron then notified residents of Riggs Park
that “Chevron would be having a community
meeting” regarding the releases. Id. ¶
between 2008 and 2009, “[p]laintiffs, in an effort to
establish damages caused by Defendants . . . paid to have
properties appraised to establish [whether] the values on
their properties were negatively affected by the actions of
the Defendants.” Compl. ¶ 24. The appraisals
showed that their property values had decreased, and as a
result, plaintiffs appealed their property taxes to a D.C.
authority and were awarded a reduction in taxes. Id.
In addition, in 2008, a “District of Columbia sponsored
sampling event identified 45 homes of the 106 sampled needed
VMS [vapor mitigation system] installations.”
Id. ¶ 121.
allege that Chevron intentionally contaminated
“[p]laintiffs' personal and real property”
thereby lowering their property values and exposing
plaintiffs to toxic chemicals. Compl. ¶¶ 8, 10.
Plaintiffs further allege that the State of Maryland and its
Department of the Environment aided and abetted Chevron's
torts and conspired with Chevron to fail to notify the
residents of Riggs Park of the releases, causing plaintiffs
additional “financial, mental and medical hardship and
losses in years to come.” Id. ¶ 18.
April 4, 2017, 35 individuals filed a complaint in the
Superior Court of the District of Columbia against the State
of Maryland, the Maryland Department of the Environment, and
Chevron U.S.A., Inc. See Ex. B, Chevron's Mot.
to Dismiss [Dkt. # 7-3] (“Chevron's Mot.”) at
13. They asserted the following claims against all
defendants: (1) vicarious liability through civil conspiracy
under 18 U.S.C. § 241, (2) continuing trespass, (3)
nuisance, (4) duty to disclose, (5) intentional nuisance
(strict liability), (6) neglect to prevent interference with
civil rights under 42 U.S.C. § 1986, (7) intentional
infliction of emotional distress, (8) disparate impact
discrimination under Title VII, (9) failure to
warn/fraudulent concealment, (10) medical monitoring, and
(11) violations of 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Id. at
25, 2017, the Superior Court dismissed plaintiffs' claims
against the Maryland defendants, finding that it did not have
personal jurisdiction, and the claims were time-barred. On
November 7, 2017, the Superior Court granted Chevron's
motion to dismiss, again finding that the claims were barred
by the applicable statute of limitations. Riggs Park
Advocates for Envtl. Justice v. Maryland, 2017 CA 2351 B
(D.C. Super. Ct. Nov. 7, 2017).
few weeks later, on November 22, 2017, plaintiffs filed an
almost identical complaint in this Court, asserting the same
eleven claims against the same defendants. All defendants
have moved to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint pursuant to
Rule 12(b)(6). See Chevron's Mot.;
Maryland's Mot. to Dismiss [Dkt. # 14, 15]
survive a [Rule 12(b)(6)] motion to dismiss, a complaint must
contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to state
a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)
(internal quotation marks omitted); accord Bell Atl.
Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In
Iqbal, the Supreme Court reiterated the two
principles underlying its decision in Twombly:
“First, the tenet that a court must accept as true all
of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable
to legal conclusions.” 556 U.S. at 678. And
“[s]econd, only a complaint that states a plausible
claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss.”
Id. at 679.
is facially plausible when the pleaded factual content
“allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that
the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.”
Id. at 678. “The plausibility standard is not
akin to a ‘probability requirement,' but it asks
for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted
unlawfully.” Id. A pleading must offer more
than “labels and conclusions” or “a
formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action,
” id., quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. ...