American College of Environmental Lawyers Guest Article: Temporary Contamination – Ain’t That a Non-Compensable Shame?


A “stigma” is a mark of shame. When applied to real estate, stigma refers to an unfavorable quality in a property that makes it less attractive. Whether a landowner may recover stigma damages for temporary contamination that has been remediated in accordance with state law is an issue the Texas Supreme Court will consider when it hears oral argument in early December in the case of Houston Unlimited, Inc. Metal Processing v. Mel Acres Ranch.

In that case, the lower appellate court had affirmed the decision of the trial court, following a jury trial, awarding the plaintiff almost $400,000 in damages attributable to an alleged diminution in value resulting from temporary contamination. In arguing for reversal, Houston Unlimited has asserted that this decision recognizes a new cause of action in Texas – for stigma damages absent permanent physical injury. Because of the ramifications of this holding, a number of Texas trade associations have filed amicus briefs in support of Houston Unlimited.

Excerpted from the American College of Environmental Lawyers, December 13, 2013. To view full article, click here.

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