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Cooper Indus. v. Aviall Servs.

Supreme Court of the United States

October 6, 2004, Argued ; December 13, 2004, Decided

No. 02-1192

Opinion

 [*160]  [**580]   Justice Thomas delivered the opinion of the Court.

LEdHN[1A][] [1A]LEdHN[2A][] [2A]LEdHN[3A][] [3A]Section 113(f)(1) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) [***556]  1 allows persons who have undertaken efforts to clean up properties contaminated by hazardous substances to seek contribution from other parties liable under CERCLA. Section 113(f)(1) specifies that a party may obtain contribution "during or following any civil action" under CERCLA § 106 or § 107(a). The issue we must decide is whether HN1[] a  [*161]  private party who has not been sued under § 106 or § 107(a)  [****8]  may nevertheless obtain contribution under § 113(f)(1) from other liable parties. We hold that it may not.

HN2[] Under CERCLA, 94 Stat 2767, the Federal Government may clean up a contaminated area itself, see § 104, or it may compel responsible parties to perform the cleanup, see § 106(a). See Key Tronic Corp. v. United States, 511 U.S. 809, 814, 128 L. Ed. 2d 797, 114 S. Ct. 1960 (1994). In either case, the Government may recover its response costs under § 107, 42 U.S.C. § 9607 (2000 ed. and Supp. I) [42 USCS § 9607], the "cost recovery" section of CERCLA. Section 107(a) lists four classes of potentially responsible persons (PRPs) and provides that they "shall be liable" for, among other things, "all costs of removal or remedial action incurred by the United States Government . . . not inconsistent with the national contingency plan." § 107(a)(4)(A).  [****9]  2 Section 107(a) further provides that PRPs [**581]  shall be liable for "any other necessary costs of response incurred by any other person consistent with the national contingency plan." § 107(a)(4)(B).

After CERCLA's enactment in 1980, litigation arose over whether § 107, in addition to allowing the Government and certain private parties to recover costs from PRPs, also allowed a PRP that had incurred response costs to recover costs from other PRPs. More specifically, the question was whether a private party that had incurred response costs, but that had done so voluntarily and was not itself subject to suit, had a cause of action for cost recovery against other PRPs. Various courts held that § 107(a)(4)(B) and [****10]  its predecessors authorized such a cause of action. See, e.g., Wickland Oil Terminals v. Asarco, Inc., 792 F.2d 887, 890-892  [*162]  (CA9 1986); Walls v. Waste Resource Corp., 761 F.2d 311, 317-318 (CA6 1985); Philadelphia v. Stepan Chemical Co., 544 F. Supp. 1135, 1140-1143 (ED Pa. 1982).

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543 U.S. 157 *; 125 S. Ct. 577 **; 160 L. Ed. 2d 548 ***; 2004 U.S. LEXIS 8271 ****; 73 U.S.L.W. 4041; 34 ELR 20154; 59 ERC (BNA) 1545; 18 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 44

COOPER INDUSTRIES, INC., Petitioner v. AVIALL SERVICES, INC.

Subsequent History: Writ of mandamus denied In re Cooper Indus., 544 U.S. 1031, 125 S. Ct. 2255, 161 L. Ed. 2d 1081, 2005 U.S. LEXIS 4146 (2005)

Partial summary judgment granted by, Dismissed by Aviall Servs. v. Cooper Indus., LLC, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 55040 (N.D. Tex., Aug. 8, 2006)

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FIFTH CIRCUIT.

Aviall Servs. v. Cooper Indus., 312 F.3d 677, 2002 U.S. App. LEXIS 23574 (5th Cir. Tex., 2002)

Disposition: Reversed and remanded.

civil action, costs, cost recovery, cause of action, authorizes, sentence, private party, contaminated, parties, clean, site, right to contribution, response costs, cleanup costs, settlement, courts, right of contribution, implied right, Environmental, remediation, cleanup, waived

Environmental Law, CERCLA & Superfund, Enforcement, Abatement, Hazardous Wastes & Toxic Substances, General Overview, Contribution Actions, Cost Recovery Actions, Strict Liability, Real Property Law, Environmental Regulations, Defenses, National Contingency Plan, Business & Corporate Compliance, Cleanup Standards, Potentially Responsible Parties, Transporters, Settlements, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Statute of Limitations, Time Limitations, Civil Procedure, US Supreme Court Review, Appeals, Reviewability of Lower Court Decisions, Preservation for Review, Courts, Judicial Precedent