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Lewis Operating Corp. v. United States

United States District Court for the Central District of California
533 F.Supp.2d 1041 (2007)


In 1943, a United States Air Force aircraft crashed onto land in central California. In 2002, Lewis Operating Corp. (Lewis) (plaintiff) purchased property which included the crash site. Lewis planned to develop the land for commercial uses. Prior to purchasing the land, Lewis hired an environmental-consulting company, which found no evidence of contamination on the property. While moving soil from the crash site to a fill site, Lewis uncovered military ammunition. The Department of Toxic Substances Control eventually investigated the property and removed ammunition from crash-site soil in three different fill sites. Lewis spent $3.2 million on this cleanup. Lewis sued the United States (defendant) to recover these costs. Lewis argued that under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), Lewis qualified as an innocent landowner and, thus, should not have to pay to clean up the environmental hazard.

Rule of Law


Holding and Reasoning (Wright, J.)

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