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Abraham v. Rockwell Int'l Corp.

Citation: 33 ELR 20176
No. No. 02-1277, (Fed. Cir., 04/16/2003)

The court holds that a defense contractor that operated the Rocky Flats Nuclear Weapons Plant in Colorado could recover under its contract with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) legal fees and other costs it incurred in a successful defense against environmental criminal charges brought against it by the federal government. Although the contractor's contract with DOE includes a contesting actions clause that disallows legal and other costs incurred in connection with legal actions of the United States, the contract also includes an environmental costs clause, which provides for recovery of all costs incurred due to environmental, safety, and health activities, including costs incurred with respect to investigation, removal, remedial action, and cleanup. The government's interpretation of the contesting actions clause would eviscerate the environmental costs clause, but reading the environmental costs clause as applying to environmental, safety, and health activities and the contesting actions clause as applying to other activities allows for the application of both clauses. Therefore, since the contractor's costs fall within the environmental costs clause, it may recover the costs from DOE.

Counsel for Appellant
John A. Kolar
Civil Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Counsel for Appellee
Richard J. Ney
Chadbourne & Parke
601 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles CA 90017
(213) 892-1000