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California v. Campbell

ELR Citation: 28 ELR 21020
Nos. 93-16754, 138 F.3d 772/46 ERC 1362/(9th Cir., 03/09/1998) Appealed under state law

The court holds that the trustees of a manufacturer's estate are liable for the trichloroethylene (TCE) contamination under state nuisance and environmental laws. A district court issued interlocutory orders finding the trustees liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and under state nuisance and environmental laws. The district court issued an injunction under state law that originated from a state environmental agency's order requiring the defendants to clean up the TCE contamination. The trustees appealed.

The court first holds that unless the lower court's summary adjudication orders fall under an exception to the final judgment rule, it has no jurisdiction to hear them. The orders that the trustees appeal are not final decisions. The court next holds that the summary adjudication orders establishing the trustees' CERCLA and state-law liability are not appealable collateral orders. They are not effectively unreviewable after final judgment. The court then holds that it has jurisdiction over the interlocutory order finding the trustees liable under state law because it is part of an order granting an injunction. The court, however, holds that the CERCLA order is not part of the order granting an injunction. Therefore, the CERCLA order falls under none of the statutory provisions that allow for immediate interlocutory appeal. The court also holds that the CERCLA order does not fall under the "inextricably intertwined" doctrine. Given the U.S. Supreme Court's criticism of pendent appellate jurisdiction, the inextricably intertwined exception should be narrowly construed. Under such a construction, the CERCLA order is not inextricably intertwined with the injunction. The court can easily address the trustees' state-law liability without discussing their CERCLA liability. The court, therefore, lacks jurisdiction to hear the CERCLA portion of the trustees' appeal.

Next, the court holds that the district court did not abuse its discretion when it denied the trustees' request to stay summary adjudication and continue discovery. The trustees failed to satisfy the requirements of Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(f). The record does not show whether the trustees ever actually submitted affidavits setting forth the particular evidence that they had hoped to elicit from further discovery. In addition, the evidence sought—that the manufacturer's property was not the source of contamination of a polluted well at a nearby housing subdivision—is almost certainly nonexistent or is the object of pure speculation. Moreover, the facts that the trustees hope to elicit during discovery are not essential to resisting the state's summary adjudication motion. The undisputed evidence that the TCE contaminated the soil and groundwater at the manufacturer's property is sufficient to establish the trustees' liability under California law. The court further holds that the district court did not err when it found as a matter of law that the trustees were liable under California's nuisance and environmental laws. There is no genuine dispute about which property polluted the water at the park and other off-site locations. Given the facts of the case, no reasonable juror could conclude that a different property was the source of the contamination at the housing subdivision. Besides failing to show a genuine dispute, the trustees also fail to show that the parties dispute material facts. To state a claim under California law, the state need not prove that the TCE migrated from the manufacturer's property to other areas. It is enough that the water under the manufacturer's property itself was contaminated. Thus, the cause of the TCE contamination at the housing subdivision and other off-site areas is immaterial to the state-law claims. Further, the district court properly found that the state was entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Under California law, the trustees are liable regardless of whether they were owners or operators under CERCLA. Last, the court holds that the district court properly issued the injunction. The district court was well within its discretion when it relied on the state environmental agency's expertise and incorporated the provisions of the agency's order into the injunction. And the order was attached to the injunction, and, therefore, the trustees were given adequate notice that they could face contempt if they violated the order.

[A related decision in this litigation is published at 28 ELR 21024].

Counsel for Plaintiff
Sandra Goldberg, Deputy Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
2101 Webster St., 12th Fl., Oakland CA 94612
(510) 286-4200

Counsel for Defendants
Dale C. Campbell, L. Burda Gilbert
Weintraub, Genshlea & Sproul
400 Capitol Mall, 11th Fl., Sacramento CA 95814
(916) 558-6000

Before Browning and Hawkins, JJ.