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Department of Toxic Substances Control v. Technichem, Inc.

ELR Citation: 46 ELR 20061
Nos. 12-cv-05845, (N.D. Cal., 03/15/2016) (Chhabria, J.)

A district court held on motions for summary judgment that a hazardous waste management company should be held liable under CERCLA for PCE contamination, but that material issues of disputed fact preclude a finding that an employee should be liable as an "operator." The testimony of the company's expert is inadmissible. Most of the expert's opinions about other potential sources of PCE contamination were based on speculation, and "speculative testimony is inherently unreliable." Accordingly, in light of the admissible evidence, any reasonable trier of fact would have to conclude that the company released PCE into the soil. The company offered endless, groundless speculation that the PCE could possibly have materialized from elsewhere, but they were unable to create a genuine factual dispute. And all of the other requirements of CERCLA liability are satisfied. However, the evidence does not conclusively establish that an employee was an operator at the time the company released PCE. The court, therefore, denied a state agency's motion for summary judgment on this claim.