Jenner & Block

Ninth Circuit Relies on State Law to Determine CERCLA Owner Liability

Siros_Steven_COLORBy Steven M. Siros


On March 14, 2011, the Ninth Circuit affirmed a district court ruling that found that BCI Coca-Cola Bottling Co. ("BCI") was not liable as an owner under CERCLA. In Los Angeles v. San Pedro Boat Works, the city of Los Angeles sued BCI to recover response costs it had incurred to remediate contaminated sediments in Los Angeles Harbor. According to the complaint, the City alleged that the activities of BCI's predecessor-in-interest, Pacific American, Inc. ("Pacific-American") contributed to the sediment contamination in the harbor. Pacific-American did not own the boat works facility outright but rather operated that facility pursuant to a permit that had been issued by the city of Los Angeles. In support of its CERCLA claims, the City argued that because Pacific-American owned the permit, it was an "owner" under CERCLA. The City also argued that Pacific-American was liable as an "operator" under CERCLA. The district court found that BCI was neither an "owner" or "operator" under CERCLA. The City appealed the district court's finding that BCI was not an "owner" under CERCLA; however, for reasons that are not clear from the record, the City did not appeal the "operator" liability determination. 

TAGS: Cercla, RCRA, Toxic Tort, Water

PEOPLE: Steven M. Siros