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United States v. Dixie Carriers, Inc.

ELR Citation: 9 ELR 20250
Nos. No. 77-2090, 462 F. Supp. 1126/(E.D. La., 10/27/1978)

In a suit by the United States seeking reimbursement for the costs of cleaning up an oil spill, the court holds that the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) provides a limitation on the amount of recovery, in the absence of willful negligence or misconduct, and precludes recovery in excess of this limitation under the Refuse Act or theories of negligence and nuisance. The careful balancing in the FWPCA of unlimited liability in certain circumstances against limited liability in almost all other circumstances would be nugatory if other laws permitted recovery beyond those limits. Recovery under the Refuse Act or the doctrines of nuisance or negligence is available upon a lesser showing of culpability than under the FWPCA and would therefore be inconsistent with the latter statute unless subject to the same limitations. The cleanup cost limitation of the FWPCA therefore overrides the right to recover full costs under the other theories. The court rules, however, that claims for damage to property and injunctive relief under the Refuse Act or the common-law theories are not similarly overriden by the FWPCA's limitations.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Michael K. Bell
Admiralty and Shipping Section
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2000

Counsel for Defendants
Henry J. Read, Machale A. Miller
Montgomery, Barnett, Brown & Read
806 1st Nat'l Bank of Commerce Bldg., New Orleans LA 70112
(504) 561-8989

Bigham, Englar, Jones & Houston
14 Wall St., New York NY 10005
(212) 732-4646

Donald R. Abaunza, Frederick W. Bradley
Liskow & Lewis
One Shell Square, 50th floor, New Orleans LA 70139
(504) 581-7979