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Cooper Industries, Inc. v. Aviall Services, Inc.

543 U.S. 157 (2004)

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Cooper Industries, Inc. v. Aviall Services, Inc.

United States Supreme Court

543 U.S. 157 (2004)

Facts

Cooper Industries, Inc. (Cooper) (defendant) owned and operated four aircraft-engine-maintenance sites (the sites) until 1981, at which time Cooper sold the sites to Aviall Services, Inc. (Aviall) (plaintiff). Aviall operated the sites for years. Thereafter, Aviall discovered that both Aviall and Cooper had contaminated the sites with hazardous substances. Without needing to file any judicial or enforcement action, the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission directed Aviall to clean up the sites, and Aviall incurred $5 million in clean-up costs. Aviall sued Cooper in district court under § 113(f)(1) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) seeking contribution. Aviall originally pleaded an additional § 107(a) claim against Cooper for cost recovery, but the claims became combined in later pleadings into a single CERCLA claim. On summary judgment, the court found that Aviall was asserting only a § 113(f)(1) claim against Cooper and relief was unavailable to Aviall under that section because Aviall had never been sued under § 106 or § 107 of CERCLA. Following an en banc hearing, the Fifth Circuit reversed, concluding that a potentially responsible party (PRP) may obtain contribution under § 113(f)(1) regardless of whether the PRP has been sued under § 106 or § 107. The Supreme Court reviewed the matter.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Thomas, J.)

Dissent (Ginsburg, J.)

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