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Ameripride Services, Inc. v. Texas Eastern Overseas, Inc.

ELR Citation: 45 ELR 20066
Nos. 12-17245, (9th Cir., 04/02/2015)

The Ninth Circuit held that in allocating liability to a nonsettling defendant in a CERCLA contribution action, a district court has discretion to determine the most equitable method of accounting for settlements between private parties. Agreeing with the First Circuit and declining to follow the reasoning of the Seventh Circuit, the court held that a district court is not required to apply either the proportionate share approach of the Uniform Comparative Fault Act or the pro tanto approach of the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act, thereby reinforcing a split between the circuit courts. The underlying case involves a private settling party's contribution action for costs incurred cleaning up soil and groundwater contamination at an industrial site near Sacramento, California. In allocating liability, the district court first ruled that it was adopting the proportionate share approach but later, at trial, effectively applied the pro tanto approach. But because the district court did not explain its methodology for complying with CERCLA §113(f) and furthering the goals of CERCLA, the Ninth Circuit could not determine whether the district court abused its discretion in allocating response costs. In addition, the district court erred in failing to determine the extent to which costs were necessary response costs consistent with the national contingency plan. It also erred in setting the date on which prejudgment interest began to accrue. The court therefore remanded the case to the district court for further proceedings.