Tuesday, October 20, 2009

AMW Materials Testing, Inc. v. Town of Babylon

Oct 19: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, Case No. 08-1731. The case involved a fire at a commercial building during which hazardous materials were released into the environment. Plaintiff owners sued the local entities that responded to the emergency in the under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), New York tort law, and New York Navigation Law to recover cleanup costs. Plaintiffs appealed a judgment from the district court in favor of defendants arguing that defendants qualify as a matter of law as “operators” of the facility from which hazardous materials were released, and that emergency response actions cannot constitute an affirmative defense to liability. The Appeals Court said, "Both arguments are unpersuasive" and affirmed the district court decision in favor of defendants.

The Appeals Court summarized its decision as follows: "(1) Section 9607(d)(2) of Title 42 is an affirmative defense to CERCLA liability under § 9607(a), and, accordingly, the district court did not err in treating it as such; (2) Whether the § 9607(a) claims in this case were properly tried to a jury or to the court, on the trial record no reasonable factfinder could decline to find that defendants are entitled to the affirmative defense set forth in § 9607(d)(2); (3) The district court properly referenced the factors set forth in Cuffy v. City of New York, 69 N.Y.2d 255, 260, 513 N.Y.S.2d 372, 375 (1987), in charging the jury as to plaintiffs’ theory of defendants’ municipal liability for negligence under New York law. (4) The district court properly denied plaintiffs’ motion for judgment as a matter of law or a new trial on their claim for the discharge of petroleum under N.Y. Nav. Law § 181(1)."

Access the complete opinion (
click here).