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Holloway v. Gaylord Chem.

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 21380
Nos. 95-3474, 922 F. Supp. 1154/(E.D. La., 03/26/1996)

The court holds that it lacks federal subject matter jurisdiction over numerous suits that individuals who were forced to evacuate their homes during a toxic gas release brought to recover costs they incurred as a result of the release. The court first holds that the damages pleaded by plaintiffs cannot fit within the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act's (CERCLA's) statutory scheme. CERCLA's purpose lies not in compensating victims, but in encouraging fast, efficient cleanup. Here, however, plaintiffs' claims implicate their private well-being. They took no active steps toward cleanup, and they left their residences primarily in fear of their own safety, which is not a "necessary response" taken primarily to further the goal of prompt, efficient cleanup of the perceived hazard. The lack of any allegations from which the court could find that any hazard remains that is worth investigating, monitoring, or remedying is fatal to the parties' efforts to establish federal jurisdiction, because plaintiffs have shown no relationship between any of their expenditures and the advancement of the statutory scheme. The court further holds that plaintiffs' claimed investigation and future remediation expenses are unrecoverable litigation-related costs, because those expenses likely arose to discover if the residents had a claim at all, rather than to determine the extent of, and remedy for, existing contamination. The court holds that private parties not actively and actually engaged in cleaning up a hazardous waste site must find their remedies through the state tort system, and thus dismisses those claims originally filed in federal court. The court next remands to state court the cases that defendants removed to federal court from state court. Federal jurisdiction is not available under the supplemental jurisdiction statute, 28 U.S.C. §1367, or the All Writs Act, because both statutes presuppose the existence of federal question jurisdiction in the originally filed cases. The court next holds that it has jurisdiction over a CERCLA §310 citizen suit, because, in contrast to the tort plaintiffs, plaintiffs in this suit do not seek response costs, and the complaint states only that the defendants have violated a federal environmental order or regulation. Finally, the court holds that it has diversity jurisdiction over a suit between one of the defendants and its insurer.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Gregory D. Guth
Sacks, Weston, Smolinsky, Pearson & Albert
Uptown Sq., Ste. 226, New Orleans LA 70119
(504) 866-8200

Counsel for Defendant
Frederick R. Campbell
Campbell, McCranie, Sistrunck, Anzelmo & Hardy
3445 N. Causeway Blvd., Ste. 802, Metairie LA 70010
(504) 831-0946