Law School Case Brief
United States v. Apex Oil Co. - 579 F.3d 734 (7th Cir. 2009)
Fed. R. Civ. P. 65(d) requires that an injunction state its terms specifically and describe in reason able detail--and not by referring to the complaint or other document--the act or acts restrained or required. Courts have insisted on strict compliance with these requirements. The rule applies equally to a mandatory injunction (acts required)--an injunction that commands that acts be done rather than not done, rather than the more common negative injunction.
Following a lengthy bench trial, a federal district judge made findings that millions of gallons of oil was contaminating groundwater, emitting fumes that rose to the surface, and generally, creating hazards to health and the environment. As requested by Environmental Protection Agency and on the authority of 42 U.S.C. § 6973 (a part of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, 42 U.S.C. §§ 6901 et seq.), the judge granted an injunction, which ordered Defendant Apex Oil Company to clean up the contaminated site. Because the plume had been created by an oil refinery that was a corporate predecessor of Apex, defendant claimed that that injunction had been discharged in bankruptcy, and therefore, could not be renewed in the subsequent lawsuit. Defendant Apex sought appellate review.
Was the injunction ordering defendant oil company to abate the nuisance created by defendant's predecessor proper?
The court affirmed the judgment. Almost every equitable decree imposed a cost on the defendant, whether the decree required him to do something or to refrain from doing something. The court rejected the logic of the company's position that every equitable claim was dischargeable in bankruptcy unless there was a specific exception in the Bankruptcy Code. Also, the order was sufficiently specific, as a degree of ambiguity was unavoidable in a decree ordering a complicated environmental cleanup.
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