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Showing 41 posts in Contribution.

Less than a month after hearing oral arguments, the United States Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in Guam v. United States, Docket No. 20-382 (May 24, 2021), the eagerly anticipated opinion on whether consent decrees and administrative orders that do not expressly resolve liability for claims under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) nevertheless give rise to a claim for contribution under Section 113(f)(3) of CERCLA. The issue is a crucial one and has been the subject of numerous court opinions because of the short, three-year limitations period for contribution actions. The opinion, which the Court intended to provide clarity in the area, holds that only settlements that release “CERCLA-specific liability” trigger the right to contribution. Read More »

On March 1, 2021, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio issued a ruling denying in part the summary judgment motion of Defendants Ingersoll-Rand and Trane U.S., against whom Plaintiff FIP Realty Co. brought various claims related to the historic release of VOCs on a site now owned by Plaintiff. See Fip Realty Co. v. Ingersoll-Rand Plc, No. 2:19-cv-03291. After acquiring the site out of receivership in 2010, Plaintiff retained several environmental consulting firms and undertook voluntary remediation efforts pursuant to the Ohio Voluntary Action Program (VAP). Six years later Plaintiff submitted a No Further Action (NFA) letter to the Ohio EPA, which in turn issued a Final Order and Covenant releasing Plaintiff from liability at the site as a result of its successful remediation. In 2019 Plaintiff filed the instant lawsuit seeking to recover remediation costs under CERCLA Sections 107(a) and 113(f)(3)(B), and to obtain a declaratory judgment under Section 113(g)(2) that Defendants are liable for all future costs. Defendants moved for summary judgment on various issues, two of which are the subject of disagreement among the federal appellate courts. Read More »

The First Circuit recently affirmed the District of Rhode Island’s approval of a superfund consent decree entered into between the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”), the State of Rhode Island and several Potentially Responsible Parties despite opposition by third party PRPs that the settlement was arbitrary and capricious and contrary to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”). Emhart Indus., Inc. v. CNA Holdings LLC, No. 19-1563, slip op. (1st Cir. 2021 Feb. 17, 2021). What makes this case unique, and bolstered the arguments of the objectors, is that the settlement incorporated work pursuant to a ROD that the District Court had already determined has not been selected in accordance with law. Nevertheless, both the District Court and the First Circuit held that the finding did not preclude the settlement, leaving the objectors exposed to contribution claims for a remedy potentially inconsistent with the National Contingency Plan (“NCP”). In affirming the lower court, the First Circuit highlighted the “integral part” that early settlement plays in CERCLA’s statutory scheme, thus giving deference to the settling parties. Read More »

On August 19, 2020, the United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued what it hoped was “the third, and should be the last, opinion in these environmental pollution cases arising from World War II and the Korean War.” Exxon Mobil Corp. v. United States, Nos. H-10-2386 & H-11-1814, slip op. at 1 (S.D. Tex. Aug. 19, 2020). The court’s decision provides a unique window into an allocation for recovery under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), a process more often conducted in private alternative dispute arrangements among potentially liable parties. 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 »

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 a Letter Order issued on July 10, 2020, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey held that broad language by which an entity assumed the liabilities of a dissolved entity was sufficient to confer both personal jurisdiction and liability on the entity which assumed the obligations. Occidental Chemical Corporation v. 21st Century Fox America, et. al., Civ. Action No. 18-11273 (D.N.J. July 10, 2020). In doing so, the Court brushed aside arguments that the jurisdiction was lacking because the dissolved entity had ceased operations in New Jersey long before the assumption of liability and that the lack of specificity in the assumption precluded a finding that CERCLA liability was included. 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 »

It has been more than a decade since the United States Supreme Court decided Burlington Northern & S.F. R. Co. v. United States, 129 S. Ct. 1870 (2009), holding that liability under Section 107(a) of CERCLA is not necessarily joint and several, but in appropriate circumstances can be divisible. And yet, courts still struggle to determine when liability is divisible and thus subject to apportionment rather than equitable allocation, with the latter, joint and several liability, still remaining the go to default. The March 30, 2020 decision from the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, in the case of Von Duprin, LLC v. Moran Electric Service, Inc., No. 1:16-cv-01942-TWP—DML (S.D. Ind. Mar. 30, 2020), is no exception. The Court found that liability for a comingled plume of volatile organic compounds (“VOCs”) was divisible, but then applied equitable factors to allocate liability. And, in getting to its final decision, the Court also discussed what costs can be recovered under 107(a), the standard for determining compliance with the National Contingency Plan (“NCP”), and what steps a lessee needs to take to avail itself of the bona fide prospective purchaser (“BFPP”) defense. This is going to be a long one, so pull up a chair. Read More »