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Amber Resources Co. v. United States

ELR Citation: 38 ELR 20233
Nos. Nos. 2007-5047, -5082, (Fed. Cir., 08/25/2008)

A district court held that a local water agency may seek punitive damages in its negligence claim against a chemical manufacturer for drinking water contamination. California law permits punitive damages to be awarded in tort actions where the plaintiff shows by clear and convincing evidence that defendant has been guilty of "oppression, fraud, or malice." Here, the complaint alleges that the manufacturer knew about the potential for harm in 1986 but allowed operations to continue at the site for another 12 years, allegedly taking no steps to abate the threat of pollution, warn anyone, or conduct testing to measure the extent of the damage. If true, these allegations could support a finding of malice. The agency, however, failed to allege sufficient facts to justify an award of punitive damages on its restitution claim.