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United States v. Ward

Citation: 14 ELR 20804
No. No. 83-63-CIV-5, 22 ERC 1235/(E.D.N.C., 05/14/1984) Third-party contribution

The court holds, in an action under §§ 104 and 107 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to recover state and federal response costs incurred in cleaning up polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) sprayed along North Carolina roadsides, that a third party action for contribution by the primary defendant is not precluded by collateral estoppel, or by CERCLA. The court first notes that one who intentionally or criminally causes an injury has no right to contribution or indemnity in an action resulting from that injury. Ward was convicted of the roadside PCB disposal, and the third party defendants may properly benefit from the doctrine of collateral estoppel with regard to those convictions despite not being parties to the criminal action. Therefore, the court holds the doctrine of collateral estoppel acts as a bar to any right Ward might have had against the third-party defendants as to all disposal sites covered by the criminal action. But since Ward was convicted of contaminating only some of the roadsides involved in this action, the court denies the third-party defendants' dismissal motion. The court goes on to hold that contribution and indemnity are available under § 107 of CERCLA. Congress did not intend to preclude actions under CERCLA for contribution and indemnity, but intended that the scope of liability be determined by federal common law.

[Related decisions are published at 12 ELR 20285, 12 ELR 20336, and 12 ELR 20402.]

Counsel for Plaintiff
James S. Terry, Ass't U.S. Attorney
P.O. Box 26897, Raleigh NC 27611
(919) 755-4530

Jeremy Ray Akers
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-5271

Douglas Greenhouse
Office of the General Counsel
Environmental Protection Agency, Washington DC 20460
(202) 475-8040

Counsel for Plaintiff-Intervenor
Andrew A. Vanore Jr., Sr. Deputy Attorney General; Thomas E. Moffitt
Department of Justice, Corner of Wilmington & Morgan, Raleigh NC 27601
(919) 733-3377

Counsel for Defendants
Ralph McDonald
Bailey, Dixon, Wooten, McDonald & Fountain
P.O. Box 2246, Raleigh NC 27602
(919) 828-0731

Robert W. Spearman
Sanford, Adams, McCullough & Beard
P.O. Box 389, Raleigh NC 27602
(919) 828-0564