Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Hinds Investment, LP v. Team Enterprises, Inc.

Aug 1: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit, Case No. 10-15607. Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California. Plaintiffs Hinds Investments, L.P. and Patricia MacLaughlin (collectively, Hinds) appeal the district court's dismissal of their claims against manufacturers of dry cleaning equipment brought, inter alia, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 6901 et seq. RCRA permits citizen suits against "any person . . . who has contributed or who is contributing to the past or present handling, storage, treatment, transportation, or disposal of any solid or hazardous waste which may present an imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment." Id. § 6972(a)(1)(B). [Note: See also the similar 9th Circuit case, Team Enterprises, LLC v. Western Investment Real Estate Trust, WIMS 7/27/11].
    The district court held that Hinds's allegations that the manufacturers contributed to waste disposal, by the design of machines that generated waste and by the instructions they gave on use of these machines, were insufficient as a matter of law to support a civil action under RCRA because all of the defendant manufacturers' alleged contributions were passive. The Appeals Court said, "We affirm. We hold that, for RCRA liability, 'contribution' requires more active involvement than was alleged as to the defendant manufacturers." The Appeals Court also noted in a footnote, "Hinds also appeals the dismissal of its other statutory and common law claims against defendant manufacturers. In a separate memorandum disposition filed along with this opinion, we affirm those rulings."
    The Appeals Court concluded, "We hold that to state a claim predicated on RCRA liability for "contributing to" the disposal of hazardous waste, a plaintiff must allege that the defendant had a measure of control over the waste at the time of its disposal or was otherwise actively involved in the waste disposal process. Mere design of equipment that generated waste, which was then improperly discarded by others, is not sufficient."
    Access the complete opinion (click here).  [#Remed, #Haz, #CA9]