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Conner v. Aerovox, Inc.

Citation: 14 ELR 20370
No. No. 83-1169, 730 F.2d 835/20 ERC 1877/(1st Cir., 03/28/1984)

The court rules that the Federal Water Polluton Control Act (FWPCA) and the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA), preempt maritime tort actions for damages resulting from polychlorinated biphenyl pollution of coastal waters. In Milwaukee v. Illinois, 11 ELR 20406, and Middlesex County Sewerage Authority v. National Sea Clammers Association, 11 ELR 20684, the Supreme Court made clear that the federal common law of nuisance was broadly preempted by enactment of the comprehensive pollution control schemes of the FWPCA and MPRSA. Appellants' claims under maritime tort are essentially the same as common law nuisance. The decision is Sea Clammers holding that common law nuisance claims were preempted was not expressly limited to actions brought under federal question jurisdiction and rationally the holding should also apply to maritime tort claims. The court acknowledges that the statutory scheme that governed appellees' discharges provides no remedy for the irreversible harm done to appellants but holds that only Congress can cure this lacuna. The Supreme Court decisions require preemption where there is a comprehensive federal statute, regardless of whether that statute effectively addresses every problem in the area. Finally, the court rejects as irrelevant appellants' argument that a district court sitting in admiralty can borrow from state law to find a remedy.

Counsel for Appellants
Leonard Rose
220 Scranton Ave., Falmouth MA 02540
(617) 548-7900

Counsel for Appellees
Paul B. Galvani, Robert B. Allensworth
Ropes & Gray
225 Franklin St., Boston MA 02110
(617) 423-6100

Jeffrey C. Bates
Goodwin, Proctor & Hoar
28 State St., Boston MA 02109
(617) 523-5700

Counsel for Amicus Curiae
J. Paul McGrath, Ass't Attorney General; Robert E. Kopp, Wendy M. Keats
Civil Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-3301

Joined by Coffin and Bownes, JJ.