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Beazer E., Inc. v. Mead Corp.

ELR Citation: 35 ELR 20133
Nos. Nos. 02-3727, -4185, (3d Cir., 06/23/2005) allocation of contribution costs rev'd

The court held that a district court's referral of the equitable allocation portion of a Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act contribution action to a magistrate judge was an improper delegation of its traditional adjudicatory function. In conducting the equitable allocation proceeding, the magistrate judge resolved factual disputes going to one of the ultimate issues in the case—what share of a company's response costs should be borne by each of the responsible parties—and, in doing so, essentially tried part of the case. Magistrate judges may not try cases without the parties' consent. Here, the company objected to the referral. Thus, the magistrate judge lacked jurisdiction and the case was remanded for a new equitable allocation proceeding before the district court.

[A prior decision in this litigation is published at 25 ELR 20001.]