Tuesday, March 15, 2011

City of Los Angeles v. San Pedro Boat Works et al

Mar 14: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 08-56163. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. The case, in the first instance determines whether the holder of a revocable permit to use real property is an "owner" of that real property for purposes of imposing liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) for the cleanup of hazardous substances disposed on that property by others. The Appeals Court said, "A common sense reading of the statute and existing state law persuade us that this permittee, as the holder of a possessory interest, cannot be such an 'owner' under CERCLA, and we so hold.
    The City of Los Angeles appealed from the district court's grant of partial summary judgment in favor of BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Los Angeles (BCI Coca-Cola). The City sued BCI Coca-Cola on ten counts arising from environmental contamination caused by operation of the San Pedro Boat Works located at Berth 44 in the Port of Los Angeles (Berth 44"). The City sought reimbursement for the expense of cleaning up hazardous substances disposed of at Berth 44. The parties do not dispute whether hazardous substances were released at Berth 44; they were.
    The disagreement is over who should pay the clean-up costs. Under CERCLA, BCI Coca-Cola must pay if and only if it or its predecessor-in-interest -- Pacific American -- was an "owner or operator" of the boatworks when the hazardous substances were disposed at Berth 44. In a separate decision, the district court held that Pacific American, and thus BCI Coca-Cola, was not an "operator" of the boatworks at Berth 44. The City, for reasons unexplained by the record, did not appeal the district court's ruling on "operator" liability. Thus, the Appeals Court said, it focused its analysis on the district court's determination that Pacific American, and thus BCI Coca-Cola, was not an "owner" of the boatworks for purposes of CERCLA.
    The Appeals Court concluded, "We affirm the district court's decision granting summary judgment to BCI Coca-Cola on the City's CERCLA and nuisance claims. Pacific American, and thus BCI Coca-Cola, lacked the necessary possessory interests in Berth 44 to establish liability under either theory. Further, the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying the City's motion to file its Fourth Amended Complaint."
    Access the complete opinion (click here).

No comments: