Commissioner of Environmental Protection v. Farricielli
Tenants who subsequently enter properties affected by injunctions imposed by courts to protect the public interest share the necessary identity of legal interest with the owners of such properties to render those orders enforceable against them as nonparties. The commissioner of environmental protection commenced an action to close and remediate a solid waste disposal area known as the tire pond, owned by the defendants, Joseph Farricielli and his various corporate entities. Modern Materials Corporation leased a portion of the tire pond from State Five Industrial Park, Inc. The trial court ordered Modern to vacate the land to effectuate the environmental remediation ordered. Modern filed this writ of error challenging, inter alia, the court's authority to enforce the injunctions ordered in the underlying action against Modern because it was never a party to that action or acted in privity with a party thereto. The Supreme Court dismissed the writ of error. Regardless of whether the recorded consent order in the underlying action operated as a legal encumbrance on Modern's leased property, under the circumstances, the trial court had the inherent authority to vindicate its judgment in the underlying action ordering injunctive relief and remediation of the environmental hazard on the defendants' land by enforcing those orders against a tenant who took possession of the land during the pendency of the litigation. Modern did not argue in its principal brief that it lacked actual or constructive notice of the operative judgments or orders but claimed it was not made a party to afford the trial court personal jurisdiction over it. However, Modern's status as a tenant of State Five rendered it in privity with the defendants in the underlying action as a matter of law. The Supreme Court was guided by a well established line of nuisance cases in concluding that consistent with due process and Modern's notice of the orders rendered in the underlying action, the trial court had the inherent power to enforce its previously ordered injunctions against Modern despite its nonparty status. The injunctions were viewed as in rem in nature with respect to subsequent tenants like Modern, even when rendered in personam against the defendants in the underlying action. Due process did not require that the nonparty be afforded the opportunity to contest the underlying judgment.