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Kalamazoo River Study Group v. Eaton Corp.

ELR Citation: 31 ELR 20617
Nos. 1:95-CV-838, 142 F. Supp. 2d 831/(W.D. Mich., 05/09/2001)

The court holds that a corporation is liable for discharging polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan from two of its three automotive manufacturing plants. The court had previously found in favor of the corporation in this Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) contribution action based on a lack of evidence showing that any of the three facilities released sufficient quantities of PCBs to satisfy the threshold of significance standard. The court, however, was reversed on appeal because it applied an incorrect liability standard, and the case was remanded. The court first holds that a CERCLA §113(f) contribution plaintiff, like a CERCLA §107 plaintiff, is not required to show any direct causal link between the waste each defendant sent to the site and the environmental harm. Consideration of causation and other equitable contribution factors is proper only in allocating response costs, not in determining liability. Therefore, the only relevant inquiry is whether the corporation discharged any PCBs to the site, regardless of the quantity. The court then holds that based on the evidence before it, it is more probable than not that some of the PCBs used at two of the corporation's facilities leaked into the Kalamazoo River. However, the court holds that the corporation is not liable for the release of PCBs from its third facility. The court found the single low-level detection of PCBs at the third facility to be unreliable. Therefore, the corporation is liable for the discharge of PCBs into the Kalamazoo River from two of its three facilities.

Prior decisions in this litigation are published at 28 ELR 21139, 29 ELR 21003, and 31 ELR 20169.]

The full text of this decision is available from ELR (31 pp., ELR Order No. L-364).

Counsel for Plaintiff
Alan C. Bennett
Law, Weathers & Richardson
333 Bridge St. NW, Ste. 800, Grand Rapids MI 49504
(616) 459-1171

Counsel for Defendant
Joseph C. Basta
Dykema Gossett
400 Renaissance Ctr., Detroit MI 48243
(313) 568-6800