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W.R. Grace & Co. -- Conn v. Zotos International

September 14, 2012

W.R. GRACE & CO. -- CONN., PLAINTIFF,
v.
ZOTOS INTERNATIONAL, INC., DEFENDANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: William M. Skretny Chief Judge United States District Court

DECISION AND ORDER

I. INTRODUCTION

Plaintiff W.R. Grace & Co.-Conn. ("Grace") is the current owner of a parcel of property on Brewer Road in Waterloo, New York ("Brewer Road Site" or "the Site") where hazardous waste was deposited over fifty years ago. Grace commenced this action on December 30, 1998, pursuant to section 113 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act ("CERCLA"), 42 U.S.C. § 9613(f), the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201, and New York law, seeking contribution from Defendant Zotos International, Inc. ("Zotos") for costs incurred in connection with Grace's investigation and remediation of contamination at the Site.

II. BACKGROUND

A non-jury trial on the issue of liability was held before this Court on May 17, 19, 20, 21, 24, 25 and 26, 2004. The parties introduced approximately four hundred exhibits and each offered lay and expert witness testimony. Following the trial, each party submitted a post-hearing brief, a responding brief, and a brief on the evidentiary issues raised at trial. Each party also prepared proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law for the Court's consideration.

On December 15, 2004, Zotos filed a Notice of Recent Decision of the United States Supreme Court in Cooper Industries, Inc. v. Aviall Services, Inc., 543 U.S. 157 (2004),*fn1 and requested that the parties be given the opportunity to brief the significance of Cooper to the liability issues in this case. Grace joined in Zotos' request by filing a Motion for Supplemental Briefing on Liability Issues. The requests were granted and each party submitted a supplemental and reply brief.

By Decision and Order dated May 3, 2005 (Docket No. 205), this Court examined Cooper and concluded that Grace could not maintain a contribution claim under § 113(f) of CERCLA.

Grace appealed, urging that it was entitled to seek contribution under § 113(f)(3)(B). Alternatively, Grace argued for the first time on appeal that it was entitled to cost recovery pursuant to § 107(a)(4)(B) of CERCLA.

The Second Circuit affirmed this Court's May 3, 2005 ruling with respect to § 113(f), and remanded for further proceedings on the ground that Grace could maintain a cause of action to pursue necessary costs under § 107. See W.R. Grace & Co.-Conn. v. Zotos Intern., Inc., 559 F.3d 85 (2d Cir. 2009).

Following a status conference on May 1, 2009, Grace filed a Second Amended Complaint (Docket No. 218) on May 15, 2009, to reflect the new statutory basis under which it now pursues recovery. Zotos filed an Answer and Counterclaim for contribution under § 113(f). (Docket No. 219.) Grace answered the Counterclaim on June 15, 2009. (Docket No. 220.)

Presently, Grace requests that this Court hold Zotos liable under CERCLA § 107(a)(3), 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a)(3) for the response costs at the Site in an amount to be determined during the damages phase of this case.

III. DISCUSSION

A. Closing Arguments

At the May 1, 2009 status conference, both attorneys stated their desire to present closing arguments, which were not scheduled at the conclusion of the bench trial. In their briefs, both counsel rely on the trial record and their existing findings, as informed by their prior briefs and one supplemental Supreme Court case that has been fully briefed. Given the number of years that have passed since trial and the new issue presented for determination in this case, this Court finds ...


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