Overcoming Objections to a Settlement in a CERCLA Action

We represented a water agency in a matter involving groundwater contamination. The defendant and its predecessors manufactured munitions and other products involving the use of TCE and other organic solvents over many decades, and now face allegations of indiscriminate dumping and massive contamination.

The defendant claimed any contamination in the groundwater originated with others, and cross-complained against the owner of small nearby property. We were able to reach a separate settlement with that cross-defendant, subject to court approval.

The defendant objected to the settlement, arguing that our client had not even sued the settling party, that $2.9 million was potentially too little, and that the settlement was collusive. The defendant also argued for a “credit” far beyond the settlement amount, urging the court to attribute a high percentage of fault to the settling party. The District Court rejected all of the defendant’s arguments after a lively hearing, and issued a written ruling explaining why a “pro tanto” allocation was more appropriate than the “pro rata” credit requested by defendant.

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