{ Banner Image }
Search this blog

Subscribe for updates

Recent Posts

Blog editor

Blog Contributors

Showing 90 posts in Contamination.

In a split decision that could have ramifications for future lawsuits involving the present pandemic, a majority panel in the Ninth Circuit held that the United States was not liable under CERCLA as an “operator” at the Lava Cap Mine Superfund Site when it ordered the mine to shut down during World War II. United States v. Sterling Centrecorp Inc., No. 18-15585 (9th Cir. Oct. 5, 2020). The decision will likely spell some relief for local, state, and federal officials that have issued similar shutdown orders across the United States during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read More »

On September 14, 2020, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit held that speculative, potential future response costs are not recoverable in a contribution action under CERCLA, even if the party seeking contribution has already made an expenditure for such costs pursuant to a settlement. The response costs at issue in ASARCO LLC v. Atlantic Richfield Co, No. 18-35934, D.C. No. 6:12-cv-00053-DLC (9th Cir. Sept. 14, 2020) were part of a cash-out bankruptcy settlement that resolved plaintiff ASARCO LLC’s liability for several contaminated sites. Only a portion of the settlement funds paid by ASARCO had been spent on remediating the site in question, with the rest held in trust to address future potential response costs. Although the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court’s allocation of 25 percent of the cleanup responsibility to the defendant, Atlantic Richfield, it vacated and remanded the district court’s decision with respect to the future costs. Read More »

Last week the Third Circuit held that Combustion Equipment Associates, Inc. n/k/a Carter Day Industries, Inc. (“Carter Day”) was not protected from a contribution claim brought by Compaction Systems Corporation of Connecticut, Inc. and Compaction Systems Corporation (collectively, “Compaction”) for amounts Compaction was obligated to pay to the United States despite Carter Day having resolving its liability to the State of New Jersey for the same site. New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection v. American Thermoplastics Corporation, et al., Nos. 18-2865 & 19-2243 (3d. Cir. Sept. 8, 2020). At issue was whether the settlement agreement between Carter Day and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”) addressed the same “matter” as the contribution claim brought by Compaction for response costs at the Combe Fill South Landfill Superfund Site (the “Combe Fill Site” or “Site”). Read More »

The Federal Tort Claims Act permits claims for monetary damages against the United States for injury or loss of property caused by the wrongful acts of federal employees. See 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). However, this waiver of sovereign immunity is limited by the discretionary function exception, which preserves immunity for claims “based upon the exercise or performance or the failure to exercise or perform a discretionary function or duty on the part of a federal agency or an employee of the Government.” 28 U.S.C. § 2680(a). Recently, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit analyzed the discretionary function exception in the context of environmental contamination, finding that the exception does not apply to what can best be described as ordinary negligence in the performance of a site remediation. Nanouk v. United States, No. 13-35116 (Sept. 4, 2020). Read More »

Earlier this week the Eleventh Circuit issued a published decision in Pinares v. United Technology Corporation, No. 18-15104, slip op. (11th Cir. Aug. 31, 2020), affirming the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida’s grant of summary judgment in favor of Pratt & Whitney, dismissing the plaintiffs’ claims as time-barred. In doing so, the Court held that the personal injury tolling provision in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) does not apply to public liability actions brought pursuant to the Price-Anderson Act (“PAA”) or to claims styled under state law based on injuries from radiation exposure. Thus, the lawsuit pursued by Joselyn and Steve Santiago alleging that Pratt & Whitney was liable for their deceased daughter Cynthia Santiago’s cancer was time barred. Read More »

On August 10, 2020, the Ninth Circuit reversed a lower court’s grant of defendants’ motion for summary judgement, permitting plaintiffs’ case to move forward in a Superfund action for contribution. See Arconic v. APC Investment, No. 19-55181 (9th Cir. Aug. 10, 2020), a case we had reported on here. At issue was whether a settlement between plaintiffs and certain de minimis parties for future potential response costs was an adequate triggering event for the statute of limitations period (against different defendants) in an action for contribution under CERCLA Section 113(f). The Ninth Circuit held that it was not, explaining that in the context of a “judicially approved settlement,” the proper triggering event was a settlement which imposed actual cleanup costs in excess of a party’s estimated liability at the site. Read More »

In MPM Silicones, LLC v. Union Carbide Corporation, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit held that there can be more than one “remedial action” at a site under certain circumstances for the purpose of determining the statute of limitations under CERCLA. Dkt. No. 17-3468(L), 17-3669(XAP) (2d Cir. 2019). The decision clarified a statement in a prior decision by the Second Circuit that had suggested otherwise. Read More »

In an unpublished opinion, Sutton v. Hoffmann-La Roche, Inc., No. A-5545-18T3 (N.J. App. Div. May 27, 2020), the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court recently affirmed a lower court’s certification of a class seeking damages due to lost property value premised upon the existence of contaminated groundwater.  Certification of similar homeowner classes has been illusive in federal courts, and thus of particular note here, the Appellate Division made clear that the while the language of New Jersey’s class certification rule is “textually similar” to the federal rule, New Jersey’s interpretation of its own rule is “far more liberal and permissive toward class certification.” Op. at 30, n. 6. Although the local nature of the case most likely made the Class Action Fairness Act inapplicable, this decision is further evidence of the importance to defendants in class action litigation of exercising removal jurisdiction whenever possible. Read More »

On May 4, 2020, the Third Circuit issued a precedential opinion affirming the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey’s decision that the United States Government (the “Government”) is not liable as an operator under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”) for its involvement at a chromite ore processing plant in New Jersey during World Wars I and II. PPG Indus. Inc. v. United States, No. 19-1165, slip op. (3d Cir. May 4, 2020). The decision clarifies the applicable standard for parties seeking to hold the Government liable as an operator for cleanup costs at contaminated former defense sites. Read More »

Today, the Supreme Court altered Clean Water Act jurisprudence when it vacated and remanded a closely-watched Ninth Circuit decision which pertained to the federal government’s authority to oversee of the migration of pollution through groundwater to navigable waters. See County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund et al., No. 18-260, 590 U.S. ____ (Apr. 23, 2020). In writing for the 6-3 majority, Justice Breyer presented the central issue of the litigation as “whether the [Clean Water] Act ‘requires a permit when pollutants originate from a point source but are conveyed to navigable waters by a nonpoint source,’ here, ‘groundwater.’” Id. at 1 (internal citations omitted). The Court held that a permit issued under the Clean Water Act is required “if the addition of the pollutants through groundwater is the functional equivalent of a direct discharge from the point source into navigable waters.” Id. Because the “functional equivalent” standard is slightly amorphous, the Court introduced several factors to aid courts, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the regulated community in making permitting determinations. See Breyer Factors, below. Read More »