Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Kalamazoo River Study Group v. Rockwell Int'l Corp.

ELR Citation: 34 ELR 20013
Nos. Nos. 01-2453, 02-2192, (6th Cir., 01/14/2004) Motion to reopen denied

The court holds that a district court properly reviewed, and rejected as time barred, a request to reopen its decision relieving a potentially responsible party (PRP) of investigative and remediation costs under Rule 60(b)(2) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. After the district court issued its zero-allocation order, plaintiff discovered new evidence of increased environmental contamination, prompting it to file the motion to reopen. The district court, construing the filing as a motion under Rule 60(b)(2), denied the request as time barred. Nothing in CERCLA compels the conclusion that the equitable underpinnings of an allocation decision exempt it from the requirement that motions to alter judgments be brought under Rule 60(b). In fact, §113(f)(1) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) clearly states that all claims "shall be brought in accordance with . . . the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure." The court rejected plaintiff's argument that because a district court relies upon equitable factors to make an allocation decision, such a decision is forever subject to revision should there be any alteration in the equities underlying the allocation order. The equitable basis of CERCLA allocation decisions does not deprive all allocation orders of their finality. Other equitable decisions, such as an order mandating specific performance in a contract dispute, are not automatically subject to future revision. In allocating no costs of future remediation to the PRP, the district court mentioned nothing about a provisional order or potential alterations in the future. Nor did the language of the district court's order leave room to infer that the allocation decision was provisional or susceptible to change based upon future events. The court also holds that the district court did not commit clear error or abuse its discretion in allocating to a second PRP only a very small portion of plaintiff's investigation costs.

[Prior decisions in this litigation are published at 28 ELR 21139, 29 ELR 21003, and 31 ELR 20169, and digested at 32 ELR 20361.]

Counsel for Plaintiff
Jerome T. Wolf
Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal
4520 Main St., Ste. 1100, Kansas City MO 64111
(816) 932-4400

Counsel for Defendant
Joseph C. Basta
Dykema & Gossett
2723 S. State St., Ste. 400, Ann Arbor MI 48104
(734) 214-7660