Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

In re In re Berkley Curtis Bay Co.

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20698
Nos. No. 78 Civ. 3552 (ADS), 557 F. Supp. 335/19 ERC 1040/(S.D.N.Y., 02/11/1983)

The court rules that under §311 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), the government may choose to seek oil spill cleanup costs from a negligent third party regardless of the possibility of seeking costs from the discharger and regardless of the liability limits the FWPCA sets for strictly liable third parties. The government sought to recover costs from cleaning up oil from a sunken dredge from two negligent parties: the dredge owners and the operators of the tug towing the dredge. The court first declines to allow the dredger to raise the admiralty doctrine of warranty of workmanlike service to preclude liability at this late stage of the litigation. The court then rules that the possibility of collecting all costs from the dredger under §311(f) does not preclude collecting some costs from the tug as a negligent third party under §311(h)(2), which preserves nonstatutory remedies against third parties. Further, the court rules that the liability limits in §311(g) for strict liability claims against third parties do not apply to nonstatutory claims against third parties. Finally, the court holds that its prior ruling that the tug was not a third-party sole cause of the spill under §311(f) is irrelevant to its holding that the tug is a third party open to actions under §311(h)(2).

Counsel for Berkley Curtis Bay Co. and Moran Towing & Transp. Co.
Kenneth H. Volk, Terry L. Stoltz, Lucas E. Andino
Burlingham, Underwood & Lord
25th Floor, One Battery Lane Park Plaza, New York NY 10004
(212) 422-7585

Counsel for American Dredging Co.
Louis G. Juliano, Lawrence B. Brennan
Bigham, Englar, Jones & Houston
14 Wall St., New York NY 10005
(212) 732-4646

Counsel for the United States
John S. Martin Jr., U.S. Attorney; Janice G. Schulmeisters
One St. Andrews Plaza, New York NY 10007
(212) 791-0055

J. Paul McGrath, Ass't Attorney General
Civil Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-3301