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Nutrasweet Co. v. X-L Eng'g Corp.

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 20402
Nos. 95 C 6024, 926 F. Supp. 767/(N.D. Ill., 05/20/1996) motions to dismiss and to exclude evidence denied

The court holds that evidence and statements state environmental and police investigators allegedly obtained in violation of the Fourth, Fifth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution need not be excluded in an action by owners of a contaminated property to recover cleanup costs from a neighboring corporation and an individual under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The court first holds that the exclusionary rules of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution do not apply in this CERCLA action. Even if state investigators never obtained a warrant to enter the corporation's property, the exclusionary rules have never been applied to exclude evidence from a civil proceeding. The court denies defendants' motion to quash statements corporation employees gave to state officers because the employees were not given the proper Miranda warnings before interrogation. Notwithstanding the corporation's lack of standing to claim that its employees' constitutional rights have been violated, a Fifth Amendment violation occurs only when the statements are used in criminal proceedings against the very person making the statements. Turning to defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint, the court holds that the complaint sufficiently alleges the standing of one of the property owners through numerous allegations that both owners incurred response costs. The court holds that the owners met the pleading requirements for arranger liability under CERCLA §107(a)(3) by alleging that chlorinated solvents and other chemical substances that defendants caused or allowed to be dumped at defendants' facility and at the owners' property are hazardous substances. The court holds that the owners' claims were timely filed because CERCLA §113(g)(2)(A)'s statute of limitations, which requires that actions to recover costs be brought within three years after completion of the removal of hazardous substances, has yet to begin running. The owners allege that they continue to evaluate, assess, and monitor the land on which defendants allegedly disposed of hazardous materials and that they continue to incur response costs, including investigation and cleanup costs. Applying Illinois law, the court holds that the owners' claim that an employee of the corporation illegally dumped hazardous wastes at or near their property and that defendants caused this intrusion sufficiently alleges a state law intentional trespass cause of action. Next, the court construes the owners' negligence per se claim based on violations of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) as a negligence claim. While RCRA does not allow a private right-of-action for the recovery of investigation and remediation costs, RCRA does not bar the owners from bringing a state-law tort claim premised on facts that could establish to a jury or judge that a duty existed and that the failure to meet the RCRA requirements constitutes a breach of that duty. The court holds, however, that the former negligence per se claim is premised on the same negligence standard as another claim, and sua sponte dismisses the former negligence per se claim as duplicative. Last, the court strikes the owners' requests for attorney fees based on state-law negligence claims. The court holds, however, that there may be a set of facts that would justify an award of attorney fees associated with the owners' CERCLA claims. Legal work that is closely tied to the actual cleanup may constitute a necessary cost clearly distinguishable from litigation expenses.

[A previous decision in this litigation is published at 27 ELR 20064.]

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Andrew R. Running
Kirkland & Ellis
200 E. Randolph Dr., Chicago IL 60601
(312) 861-2000

Counsel for Defendants
Emund B. Moran Jr.
Schopf & Weiss
304 W. Randolph St., Chicago IL 60606
(312) 701-9300