Stating that it was persuaded by Second and Fourth Circuit Courts of Appeals precedent, a federal court in Missouri has dismissed plaintiffs’ unjust enrichment claim in light of their action to recover response costs under Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) contribution provisions. Pharmacia LLC v. Union Elec. Co., No. 12-CV-2275 (E.D. Mo. 5/10/13).
The plaintiffs were entities that had incurred response costs for a groundwater chlorinated volatile organic compound chemical plume that was allegedly caused solely by the defendant’s operations. Plaintiffs discovered the plume while conducting monitoring required in their efforts to respond to a nearby, but separate, alleged contaminated groundwater plume. Plaintiffs sued, asserting a right to contribution under CERCLA and an unjust enrichment claim founded on Missouri common law. After finding no controlling Eighth Circuit authority, the court identified decisions from the Second and Fourth Circuits holding that section 113(f) of CERCLA, the contribution provision, preempts state-law claims for the same costs sought as response costs. “Because Section 113(f) established a standardized contribution scheme for costs arising from settlement with the EPA, this unjust enrichment claim arising from the same settlement action would ‘stand as an obstacle to the purpose or objectives of the federal law.’”