Adkisson v. Jacobs Eng'g Grp, Inc, No. 14-6207 (6th Cir. 2015)Annotate this Case
KIF is a Tennessee coal-fired plant generating electricity. In 2008, a KIF coal-ash containment dike failed, spilling 5.4 million cubic yards of coal-ash sludge over 300 acres of adjacent land. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) responded, pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan. EPA delegated authority to TVA, 42 U.S.C. 9604(a)-(b). TVA engaged Jacobs as the prime contractor for planning and oversight of remediation. Jacobs provided a Site Wide Safety and Health Plan that applies to all construction at the site, and to CERCLA remediation activities in accordance with EPA’s Standard Operating Safety Guide. The Plaintiffs worked on the KIF remediation and, in 2013, sued, alleging that Jacobs improperly monitored fly ash; inadequately trained workers about hazards of inhaling toxic fly ash; inadequately monitored their medical conditions; denied requests for respirators and dust masks; exposed them to high concentrations of flyash toxic constituents; and fraudulently concealed that exposure. The district court dismissed for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction, concluding that Jacobs was entitled to government-contractor immunity as a corollary of the discretionary-function exception to the Tort Claims Act, 28 U.S.C. 2674. The Sixth Circuit reversed, finding that such immunity is not jurisdictional and that the court should have considered a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim.