United States v. Serafini
United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania
706 F. Supp. 346 (1988)
In 1969, the Empire Contracting Company (Empire), a partnership owned by Serafini, Bernabei, Buttafoco, and Naples (defendants), purchased land in Pennsylvania on which the City of Scranton had operated a sanitary landfill and waste-disposal site. In 1983, after federal and state environmental investigations, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (plaintiff) conducted an immediate removal action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). EPA laboratory testing revealed that samples from most of the 1,141 drums scattered throughout the property contained hazardous materials. In 1986, the EPA sued the defendants for injunctive relief and response-cost recovery. The EPA and the defendants then signed a consent decree in which the defendants agreed to complete remediation of the hazardous substances at the property. The EPA also asked the court to grant partial summary judgment against the defendants for liability under CERCLA. The defendants claimed that because they were not involved in the disposal of hazardous substances at the site, they fall under CERCLA’s innocent-landowner exemption and thus cannot be held liable. The EPA argued that this exemption does not apply to the defendants, because the defendants knew or should have known about the hazardous substances on their property when they purchased it.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Caldwell, J.)
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