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Cose v. Getty Oil Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit
4 F.3d 700 (9th Cir. 1993)


Getty Oil Co. (Getty) (defendant) produced crude oil on a parcel of land. Before it was transported, Getty stored the crude oil in tanks. At the bottom of these tanks, sediment and water would settle and Getty would dispose of the crude oil tank bottoms before the crude oil was transported. Getty sold the parcel of land to Don and Darlene Cose (plaintiffs). After purchase, the Coses found a subsurface tar-like substance and had the property tested. The testing found high levels of Chrysene, a carcinogen, in the ground. The Coses brought suit under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. § 9601, to recover expenses associated with the testing and subsequent cleanup. For a plaintiff to establish liability under CERCLA, the plaintiff must prove, among other things, that a release or threatened release of a hazardous substance has occurred and has caused the plaintiff to incur response costs. CERCLA excludes from its definition of hazardous substance “petroleum, including crude oil or any fraction thereof which is not otherwise specifically” defined as a hazardous substance. Getty moved for summary judgment based on this exclusion. Getty claimed that crude oil tank bottoms were part of crude oil, a petroleum product. The district court granted Getty’s motion. The Coses appealed.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Pregerson, J.)

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