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Atlantic Richfield Co. v. United States

ELR Citation: 13 ELR 20900
Nos. No. 241-79L, 1 Cl. Ct. 261/19 ERC 1998/(Ct. Cl., 10/13/1982)

The court denies plaintiff reimbursement of oil cleanup costs under §311(i) of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act for a spill caused by third parties because plaintiff's negligence was a contributing cause of the spill. Plaintiff spent over $25,000 cleaning up oil that entered the Black Warrior River after vandals drained two trucks at plaintiff's oil terminal. The court rules that to recover those costs from the government under §311(i), plaintiff must be entirely without fault for the spill. The court rules that plaintiff was partially at fault since plaintiff could have foreseen that a loaded, unguarded truck left on property unsecured against spills could, through collision, disaster, malfunction, or vandalism, lead to a spill. The accident's foreseeability is underscored by the fact that plaintiff did secure part of its property to prevent escape of oil from accidental spills. The court holds that the Coast Guard's finding that the vandals were the primary cause of the spill does not contradict the court's ruling that plaintiff was also at fault.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Horace E. Campbell
Atlantic Richfield Co.
3500 Entex Bldg., 1200 Milam, Houston TX 77002
(713) 654-4600

Counsel for Defendant
Nancy S. Bryson
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 633-2701