Tuesday, January 3, 2012

State Of New York v. Solvent Chemical Co., Inc.

Dec 19: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit, Case Nos. 10-2026, 10-2166, 10-2383. The Appeals Court summarizes saying, "Plaintiff sought contribution under the Comprehensive Environmental Response and Compensation Act (CERCLA) for both past and future costs of cleaning up industrial pollution. The U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York awarded contribution for past cleanup costs but declined to issue a declaratory judgment as to future contribution. The Appeals Court reversed the denial of a declaratory judgment and indicated that numerous other issues raised on appeal are decided in a summary order issued simultaneously with the opinion.
    Plaintiff Solvent Chemical Company, Inc. (Solvent) sued two adjoining property owners, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Co. (DuPont) and Olin Corporation (Olin), seeking contribution for costs that Solvent had incurred and continues to incur cleaning up hazardous waste pursuant to a consent decree with the State of New York. The district court declined to declare liability chiefly because the allocation of future costs would be premature.
    The Appeals Court indicates that, "The reasons given by the district court might justify a refusal to allocate cleanup responsibility; none of them, however, supports a refusal to grant a declaratory judgment as to liability itself. . . none of the factors identified by the court distinguishes between past and future cleanup. . . These factors require a district court to issue a declaratory judgment in this case. A declaratory judgment would 'serve a useful purpose' here for at least two reasons.
    "First, there is a short statute of limitations for a CERCLA contribution claim. . . Second, the 'costs and time involved in relitigating issues as complex as these where new costs are incurred would be massive and wasteful' . . . A declaratory judgment
with respect to liability saves litigants and courts substantial time and money, leaving for the future only the need to fix the amount of contribution and affording the court flexibility with respect to the time and manner for doing so. . .Accordingly, we conclude that: the judgment would 'serve a useful purpose in . . . settling the legal issues involved'. . ."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [#Remed, #CA2]

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