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Berrey v. Asarco Inc.

439 F.3d 636 (2006)

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Berrey v. Asarco Inc.

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

439 F.3d 636 (2006)

Facts

The United States allotted the Quapaw Tribe (plaintiff) land in northeast Oklahoma along Tar Creek. After lead and zinc ores were discovered on the land, the tribe and the United States Department of Interior (DOI) negotiated mining leases with various companies, including the predecessors in interest of both Blue Tee Corporation and Gold Fields Mining (defendants) (miners). As part of the lease, debris from the mining process (chat) was to be deposited on the land and thereafter deemed property of the tribe. The tribe then profited from the sale of this chat throughout the Tar Creek area. When mining ended, the tribe brought suit against the miners, claiming environmental contamination to the Quapaw land as a result of their mining activities. The miners filed counterclaims for contribution and indemnity, arguing that the tribe contributed to any alleged contamination through its use of chat. The tribe filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that the counterclaims were barred by tribal sovereign immunity. The district court denied the tribe’s motion, finding that the counterclaims were claims in recoupment, and that the tribe had waived its sovereign immunity as to claims in recoupment by filing suit. The tribe appealed.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Murphy, J.)

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