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PCS Nitrogen Incorporated v. Ashley II of Charleston, LLC

United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit
714 F.3d 161 (2013)


Facts

In 2003, Ashley II of Charleston, LLC (Ashley) (plaintiff) purchased 27.62 acres of property in Charleston, South Carolina from Holcombe and Fair to include as part of a sustainable, mixed-use project. At the time of purchase, Ashley intended to remediate soils at the property that were contaminated from decades of phosphate-fertilizer production before Holcombe and Fair’s ownership. Ashley brought a cost-recovery action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) against PCS Nitrogen, Inc. (PCS) (defendant). Ashley claimed that CERCLA’s liability exemption for bona fide prospective purchasers applies to Ashley’s potential liability under CERCLA. The trial court ruled that Ashley does not qualify for the exemption, because Ashley failed to exercise appropriate care and take reasonable steps, which are included in the exemption’s qualifying criteria. Ashley appealed, claiming its actions regarding hazardous substances at the property are not disqualifying.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Motz, J.)

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  • A "yes" or "no" answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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