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United States v. New Castle County

ELR Citation: 18 ELR 20188
Nos. No. 80-489 LON, 116 F.R.D. 19/26 ERC 1454/(D. Del., 04/10/1987) Procedural rulings

The court holds that the United States may not amend its complaint in an action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act to add third-party defendants as defendants, a third-party defendant may not file a fourth-party complaint against transporters, third-party plaintiffs may amend their complaints to name additional third-party defendants, and all claims will be tried in a single trial. The court first denies the United States' motion to amend its complaint to add six third-party defendants. The motion was filed six years after the suit was filed, two-and-a-half years after a court-imposed deadline for naming new parties, and at least a year-and-a-half after the United States knew that each of the proposed third-party defendants was potentially liable. The existing third-party defendants would be substantially prejudiced if the United States' motion to amend were granted. The extensive settlement negotiations among third-party defendants would be undermined by realignment of the parties, conflicts of interest would likely be created among counsel, and additional pleadings and discovery would likely be required. Further, the public has an interest in seeing the litigation move closer to the point where the hazardous substances will finally be cleaned up. The court holds that a third-party defendant may not file a fourth-party complaint against six transporters, since the third-party defendant had all the relevant information when it was named in the suit a year-and-a-half ago and other parties and the public would be significantly prejudiced if the motion were granted. The court holds that three defendants may amend their third-party complaints to add two third-party defendants. Defendants' delay in filing this motion, which may have been extended by the third-party defendants' own lack of diligence in responding to discovery requests, is not inexcusable and granting the motion will not substantially prejudice the nonmoving parties. Finally, the court rejects third-party defendants' motion to divide the trial into three phases. One consolidated trial, while an enormous undertaking, will be in the best interests of judicial economy and would facilitate settlement of the entire case.

[Previous decisions in this litigation are published at 16 ELR 21007, 21011, and 21013.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Richard G. Andrews, Ass't U.S. Attorney
J. Caleb Boggs Fed'l Bldg., 844 King St., Rm. 6001, Wilmington DE 19801
(302) 573-6277

Judith A. Dorsey
Office of General Counsel
Environmental Protection Agency
401 M St. SW, Washington DC 20460
(202) 475-8040

Counsel for Defendant/Third-Party Plaintiff
B. Wilson Redfearn
Tybout, Redfearn, Casarino & Pell
Suite 1110, Bank of Delaware Building, 300 Delaware Ave., Wilmington DE 19801
(302) 658-6901