United States District Court, E.D. New York
CHRISTOPHER J. CORNETT, BRUCE CORNETT, and CATHY CORNETT Plaintiff,
NORTHROP GRUMMAN CORPORATION, and NORTHROP GRUMMAN SYSTEMS CORPORATION, Defendants.
Plaintiffs: Rigano LLC By: James P. Rigano, Esq. Nicholas C.
Rigano, Esq. Leslie R. Bennett, Esq. Alyse Delle Fave, Esq.
Defendants: Morrisson & Foerster LLP By: Grant J.
Esposito, Esq. Jessica Kaufman, Esq. Katie L. Viggiani, Esq.
Robert J. Baehr, Esq. Hollingsworth LLP By: Frank Leone, Esq.
MEMORANDUM & ORDER
R. HURLEY, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
J. Cornett (“Chris”), Bruce Cornett
(“Bruce”), and Cathy Cornett
(“Cathy”) (collectively, “Plaintiffs”
or “Cornetts”) brought this action for negligence
and strict liability against Northrop Grumman Corporation and
Northrop Grumman Systems Corporation (collectively, the
“Defendants”) for injuries and damages allegedly
suffered as a result of the release of hazardous substances
from Northrop Grumman's former site of approximately 605
acres in Bethpage, New York. Presently before the Court is
Defendants' motion to dismiss the complaint pursuant to
Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). For the reasons set forth below, the
motion is denied.
following allegations are taken from the Amended Complaint
(“Am. Comp.”) and assumed true for purposes of
this motion, unless otherwise noted.
Chris Cornett, Bruce Cornett, and Cathy Cornett are a family
from Bethpage, New York. Bruce and Cathy Cornett, husband and
wife, have lived in Bethpage since February 10, 1984. (Am.
Compl. [ECF No. 7] ¶¶ 6-9.) Chris Cornett, son of
Bruce and Cathy Cornett, lived in Bethpage, New York from his
birth in 1984 until April 2018. (Am. Compl. ¶¶
Northrup Grumman, a successor to Northrop Corporation, and
Defendant Northrop Grumman Systems, a wholly owned subsidiary
of Defendant Northrop Grumman, are corporations organized
under the laws of the State of Delaware with their principal
places of business and headquarters in Virginia. (Am. Compl.
Activities in Bethpage
in the early 1930s and for decades thereafter, Grumman
Aerospace Corporation, a predecessor of Defendant Northrop
Grumman, operated a facility in Bethpage, New York. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 14.) The facility, which encompassed
approximately 605 acres (“Grumman site”) was
owned and operated by Defendants. (Am. Compl. ¶¶
14-15.) “The operations at the Grumman site comprised
the engineering, manufacturing, primary assembly, and
research/development testing of a variety of military and
aerospace crafts.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 16.)
approximately 108 acres of the Grumman site, the United
States Navy established a facility known as the Naval Weapons
Industrial Reserve Plant (“NWIRP site”) for
“design engineering, research prototyping, testing,
fabrication and primary and subassembly of various naval
aircrafts.” (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 17, 19.) The NWIRP
site was owned by the Navy but operated by Defendants and
their predecessor entities. (Am. Compl. ¶ 18.)
Plaintiffs allege upon information and belief that,
“since no later than 1947, Defendants were aware or
should have been aware that their operations at the Grumman
site and the NWIRP site were causing subsurface hazardous
waste contamination in Bethpage.” (Am. Compl.
Northrop Grumman Systems and/or its predecessor entities
owned and/or operated approximately eighteen acres of land
adjacent to the Grumman site (“18-acre
property”). (Am. Compl. ¶ 22.) Defendants, through
their predecessor entities, used a portion of the 18-acre
property, known as the Former Grumman Settling Ponds Area,
“as a dumping ground for hazardous waste, specifically
for dewatering of sludge, including neutralized chromic acid
waste from the wastewater treatment facility located at the
Grumman site, ” from approximately 1949 to 1962. (Am.
Compl. ¶ 23.) In 1962, Defendant Northrop Grumman
Systems and/or its predecessor entity, Grumman Aircraft
Engineering Corporation, donated the 18-acre property to the
Town of Oyster Bay (“Oyster Bay”). (Am. Compl.
¶ 26.) Prior to donating the 18-acre property, which
included the Former Grumman Settling Ponds area, Defendants
and their predecessors knew or should have known that the
property was “grossly contaminated” and that
“the Town of Oyster Bay intended to use the property
for a public park where children, among others, would
play.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 29.) “Defendants and
their predecessors” did not inform Oyster Bay
“until decades after donating the property” that
they used the 18-acre property for waste disposal and that it
was grossly contaminated. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 30-31.)
Use and Contamination of the Grumman Site and 18-acre
1962, Oyster Bay has used the 18-acre property as the
Bethpage Community Park for public recreation purposes. For
example, in or shortly after 1962, Oyster Bay built a
baseball field on the Former Grumman Settling Ponds area,
where children played little league baseball for decades.
(Am. Compl. ¶¶ 33-34.)
1983, the Grumman site was added to the New York State
Registry of Inactive Hazardous Waste Sites (“Superfund
sites”) maintained by the New York State Department of
Environmental Conservation (“DEC”). (Am. Compl.
¶ 35.) In 1987, the Grumman site was classified as a
class 2 Superfund site, which means that it “poses a
significant threat to human health and/or the environment and
for which action is required.” (Am. Compl. ¶¶
allege that “[m]ultiple contaminants from the Grumman
site, the NWIRP site, and the Forman Grumman Settling Ponds
area have entered the groundwater and migrated with the
groundwater south and southeast within Bethpage, extending
horizontally to form an approximately six (6) square mile
area of contamination and to a depth of approximately 750
feet (‘Plume'), ” impacting drinking water
supply wells in Bethpage. (Am. Compl. ¶¶ 55-56.)
Allegedly Discharged by Defendants
[volatile organic compounds (“VOCs”)]
contaminants have been found in the groundwater emanating
from the Grumman site, the NWIRP site and the Former Grumman
Settling Ponds area at levels within the Plume up to 15, 000
ppb, nearly 3, 000 times acceptable groundwater
levels.” (Am. Compl. ¶ 60.) The VOCs of concern
within the Plume have been found to cause kidney, testicular,
prostate and other types of cancer. (Am. Compl. ¶¶
61-62.) The VOCs have impacted public drinking water supply
wells located within the Plume, including ...