Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a ruling that CERCLA’s contribution section (Section 113(f)) provides the exclusive remedy for a liable party compelled to incur response costs under an administrative settlement. In Morrison Enterprises, LLC v. Dravo Corporation, No. 11-30, Morrison Enterprises (Morrison) filed a petition for certiorari before the U.S. Supreme Court, asserting a conflict in the Circuit Courts of Appeal and with two seminal Supreme Court decisions. Reed Smith represented Dravo Corporation in opposing the petition and the Supreme Court denied certiorari on October 3.

In the case, Morrison and the city of Hastings, Nebraska – both of which were liable under CERCLA for hazardous substances released into the groundwater – sued Dravo Corporation, a manufacturing site owner also liable under CERCLA. Morrison and the City filed suit under CERCLA Section 107 and sought to recover groundwater contamination costs related to the operation of Well D, a groundwater extraction and treatment system located downgradient of each party’s relevant source of contamination. The District Court granted Dravo Corporation’s motion for summary judgment, finding that Section 113(f) was the Appellants’ exclusive remedy. The Circuit Court affirmed, explaining that “liable parties which have been subject to Section 106 or 107 enforcement actions are still required to use Section 113.” In ruling for Dravo Corporation, the circuit court held that, because Morrison and the city of Hastings were liable parties compelled to incur response costs pursuant to an administrative or judicially approved settlement under Sections 106 or 107, they could only bring a Section 113(f) claim for contribution. See Morrison Enterprises, LLC v. Dravo Corporation, 683 F.3d 594 (8th Cir. 2011).

Dravo Corporation was represented by Reed Smith attorneys Larry Demase, Jim Martin, David Wagner and David Bird. Additional case details can be found on our blog at this post.