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Hydro-Manufacturing, Inc. v. Kayser-Roth Corp.

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 20663
Nos. No. 94-560B, 903 F. Supp. 273/(D.R.I., 11/03/1995)

The court holds that an action by the current owner of a contaminated site to recover cleanup costs from the site's former owner and operator is a contribution action under §113 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which is barred by the applicable three-year statute of limitations. The court first holds that entry of a judicially approved settlement triggers CERCLA §113(g)(3)(B)'s statute of limitations for contribution actions. The site's current owner and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) entered into a consent decree on January 18, 1990, and the current owner waited until 1994 to bring its action. Relying on United Technologies Corp. v. Browning-Ferris Industries, 24 ELR 21356 (1st Cir. 1994), the court holds that claims by and between jointly and severally liable parties for appropriate division of the payment that one of them was compelled to make are contribution claims. The current site owner is a covered person under CERCLA and therefore liable. Even though the current owner may be blameless for the original contamination, that is irrelevant for CERCLA purposes, because ownership alone triggers partial responsibility for aiding in the cleanup. The current owner's agreement to the consent decree provides compelling evidence that it recognized that it might be liable pursuant to §107, and there is nothing to indicate that the current owner ever attempted to argue an affirmative defense pursuant to §107(b).

[Decision in a related case are published at 20 ELR 20349 and 21462.]

Counsel for Plaintiff
Haig Barsamian
58 Weybosset St., Providence RI 02903
(401) 331-7264

Counsel for Defendant
Deming E. Sherman
Edwards & Angell
2700 Hospital Trust Tower, Providence RI 02903
(401) 274-9200