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United States v. Hollywood Marine, Inc.

Citation: 10 ELR 20569
No. No. H-78-173, 487 F. Supp. 1211/14 ERC 1354/(S.D. Tex., 04/15/1980)

The district court rules that the owners of a barge from which oil was discharged may, in an action brought by the United States to recover its cleanup costs pursuant to § 311(f) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, escape liability on the ground that the owner of a tug that was towing the barge was an independent contractor and thus a third party for purposes of the § 311(f)(1)(D) exemption from liability. The purpose of the third-party defense is to relieve the proprietor of a vessel of responsibility for acts done by parties who are in exclusive control of the offending vessel. Since the oil spill occurred while the unmanned, seaworthy barge was under the exclusive control of the towing company, the barge owners are not liable for cleanup costs.

Counsel for Plaintiff
J. A. "Tony" Canales, U.S. Attorney; Jack Shepherd, Ass't U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 61129, Houston TX 77208
(713) 226-4765

Rosemary A. Denson
Civil Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 724-7243

Counsel for Defendants
Kenneth G. Engerrand
Royston, Rayzor, Vickery & Williams
Suite 3710, One Shell Plaza, Houston TX 77002
(713) 224-8380

J. Byron Sims
Brown, Sims & Ayre
Suite 1735, 2000 S. Post Oak Rd., Houston TX 77056
(713) 629-1580