Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Boston & Maine Corp. v. Massachusetts Bay Transportation

Nov 24: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, First Circuit, Case No. 09-1185. The Appeals Court explains that on June 30, 1983, the Boston and Maine Corporation (B&M), a railroad operator, was discharged from bankruptcy by a Consummation Order stating that it was "free and clear of all claims." The Order was pursuant to § 77 of the Bankruptcy Act of 1898, 11 U.S.C. § 205 (repealed 1978). B&M was the operator of what is now known as the MBTA Commuter Rail Maintenance Facility (the Terminal), a thirty-four-acre railroad terminal in the greater Boston area used for refueling diesel trains. In 1983, the Terminal was owned by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (the MBTA), having been purchased by the MBTA from B&M in 1976; B&M had operated the Terminal under bankruptcy protection from 1970 to June 1983 and had owned the Terminal since the late 1920s. B&M continued to operate the Terminal under an agreement with and for the benefit of the MBTA until December 31, 1986.

The MBTA asserted no claims against B&M regarding environmental matters before B&M's June 1983 discharge from bankruptcy, pursuant to the Consummation Order. The MBTA did, however, assert a claim on May 4, 2004, almost 21 years later, against B&M. The claim was for 95 percent of $15,340,810 for past costs and 95 percent of all future costs, as contribution, under state environmental law, the Massachusetts Oil and Hazardous Material Release Prevention and Response Act (Chapter 21E), for certain cleanup activities the MBTA had undertaken at the Terminal.

The Appeals Court ruled, "We hold that the MBTA's contribution claims under Chapter 21E for contamination prior to the 1983 discharge from bankruptcy are barred as a matter of law by the Consummation Order. We reverse and direct entry of judgment on these claims for B&M." Further the Appeals Court concluded, "Both sides have been ably represented by counsel; the facts and the law require rejection of the MBTA's arguments. The MBTA's contribution claims arising out of pre-June 30, 1983, conduct by B&M are barred by the Consummation Order, so B&M is entitled to an order enjoining the MBTA from pursuing claims for investigation or remediation costs for contamination at the Terminal occurring before June 30, 1983."

Access the complete opinion (
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