Arconic, Inc. v. APC Investment Co., No. 19-55181 (9th Cir. 2020)Annotate this Case
The Ninth Circuit reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment for defendants in an action seeking contribution for cleanup costs under Section 113(f) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). CERCLA requires parties to pursue contribution for their cleanup costs within three years of the "entry of a judicially approved settlement with respect to such costs."
The panel held that, to trigger CERCLA's limitations period, a settlement must impose costs on the party seeking contribution. The panel applied a straightforward interpretation of the limitations provision and explained that, since a party can obtain contribution only for costs incurred in excess of its own liability, an action under Section 113(f)(1) is necessarily for another's share of the costs faced or imposed under Sections 106 or 107(a). Accordingly, a settlement starts the limitations period on a Section 113(f)(1) claim for response costs only if it imposed those costs and serves as the basis for seeking contribution. In this case, it was inaccurate to characterize the 2007 settlement as covering the costs at issue and the 2007 settlement did not extinguish OPOG's and the APC defendants' common liability to the United States. Therefore, the agreement did not start the limitations period. Finally, the panel held that OPOG is not judicially estopped from seeking contribution.