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In re In re Steuart Transp. Co.

ELR Citation: 7 ELR 20658
Nos. No. 76-697-N, 435 F. Supp. 798/(E.D. Va., 07/29/1977)

In a suit for exoneration from, or limitation of, liability for cleanup costs resulting from the sinking of an oil-carrying barge and a subsequent oil spill, the barge owner is liable for the full cleanup costs under state law but liability for federal cleanup costs claims is limited by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act. The barge owner was found to be ordinarily negligent as to the proximate cause of the spill, and there was no contributory negligence against the towing company or the United States. The federal Limitation of Liability Act does not limit the claims against the barge owner because the specific FWPCA provision for federal cleanup claims for oil spills overrides it. The liability limitation imposed by the FWPCA itself refers only to federal cleanup costs, and the statute waives preemption by permitting the states to impose more extensive liability. Virginia's liability statute is without limitation. Because Congress contemplated federal and state cooperation in cleaning up oil spills, the full claims under Virginia law will be allowed.

Counsel for Steuart Transportation Company
Phillip N. Davey, Robert M. Hughes, III
Seawell, McCoy, Dalton, Hughes, Gore & Timms
936 Wainwright Bldg., Bute & Duke Sts., Norfolk VA 23510
(804) 622-5341

Counsel for Allied Towing Company and Amoco Oil Company
Morton H. Clark, G. William Birkhead
Vandeventer, Black, Meredith & Martin
2050 Virginia Nat'l Bank Bldg., I Commercial Pl., Norfolk VA 23510
(804) 622-4381

Counsel for State of Virginia
David E. Evans, Timothy G. Hayes, Ass't Attorneys General
1101 E. Broad St., Richmond VA 23219
(804) 786-2071

Counsel for United States
Allen Van Emmerick
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 739-3373

Counsel for individual claimant, pro se
Winfred E. Sutton, Sr.
2511 Swathmore Rd., Richmond VA 23235
(804) 272-6450