« Ind. Decisions - Court of Appeals issues 0 today (and 4 NFP) | Main | Ind. Gov't. - Both sides rest in Charlie White case »

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit rules on: Superfund used to justify $28,000 bill to fight fire at couple's home

On March 23, 2010, the ILB had a long entry headed "Environment - More on: Superfund used to justify $28,000 bill to fight fire at couple's home," which is well worth rereading.

Today, in the case of EMERGENCY SERVICES BILLING CORPORATION, INC. (ESBC), individually (and as agent for) agent of Westville Volunteer Fire Department v. Allstate (ND Ind., http://indianalawblog.com/archives/2012/02/ind_govt_both_s.html), a 21-page opinion, Judge Flaum writes:

This appeal concerns the interpretation of the phrase “consumer product in consumer use” in the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”). 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601 et seq. Plaintiff-appellant, Emergency Services Billing Corporation (“ESBC”), is the billing agent for the Volunteer Fire Department of Westville (“Fire Department”), a town in central Indiana. ESBC brought this action against individuals who were involved in motor vehicle accidents and the insurance companies that represent those individuals. Under CERCLA, the owner of a “facility” from which hazardous substances have been released is responsible for the response costs that result from the release. ESBC believes that personallyowned motor vehicles fall within the definition of “facilities” under CERCLA. Thus, ESBC charged the individual defendants, and therefore the insurance company defendants, with the response costs relating to their respective car accidents. Defendants argue that personal motor vehicles fall under CERCLA’s “consumer product in consumer use” exception to the definition of “facilities,” and they have refused to pay ESBC for the response costs. ESBC has asked for declaratory relief in the form of a confirmation of the defendants’ liability under CERCLA.

The district court held that motor vehicles for personal use do, in fact, fall under the “consumer product in consumer use” exception to CERCLA’s definition of facility, and that defendants cannot be charged with the Fire Department’s costs for responding to the car accidents. ESBC appeals, challenging the district court’s interpretation of CERCLA. For the following reasons, we affirm the district court’s dismissal of ESBC’s suit. * * *

The purpose of the exclusion, therefore, is clearly to prevent consumers— all consumers—from being held liable under CERCLA, despite ESBC’s claims that this broad remedial scheme must cover car accidents. ESBC offers no support from CERCLA’s legislative history that a category as large as personal motor vehicles should be excluded from the definition of consumer products, nor can we think of a reason for this exclusion.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on February 2, 2012 11:31 AM
Posted to Environment | Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions | Indiana Law