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Rare Discretionary Stay of Trial Granted in Oil Spill Litigation

Case Study

Rare Discretionary Stay of Trial Granted in Oil Spill Litigation

January 2016

John F. Parker and George H. Buermann of Goldberg Segalla’s Environmental Practice Group recently obtained a rare discretionary stay of a trial pending the resolution of a key issue on appeal. Here, the firm represents an oil delivery company that was involved in an alleged overflow during a delivery to a property owner’s underground storage tanks. Goldberg Segalla’s issue on appeal involves whether New York’s strict liability Navigation Law (known as the Oil Spill law) should be implicated where, despite a release, soil samples demonstrate that no subsurface contamination occurred; thus, by logical extension, no potential contamination to New York’s waterways exists to trigger the statute.

The stay was granted by the full judicial panel sitting in the Supreme Court of New York, Appellate Division, Second Department. The standard for granting a court-ordered stay is based solely upon the appellate court’s discretion. The trend over the past decade in the First and Second Departments, however, has been to deny the overwhelming amount of applications by attorneys seeking to stay a trial pending an appeal. The primary factors considered by the courts is whether the party seeking a discretionary stay has demonstrated that the underlying appeal is meritorious and has a reasonable probability of ultimate success. In addition, a court may consider the harm or prejudice that might accrue to the appellant absent a stay, as well as the potential prejudice to the respondent if a stay is granted.  

The Goldberg Segalla team successfully established these factors with the court and now awaits the substantive decision on appeal.