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In re Methyl Tertiary Butyl Ether ("MTBE") Products Liability Litigation

United States District Court, Second Circuit

December 30, 2013

IN RE: METHYL TERTIARY BUTYL ETHER (

Robin Greenwald, Esq., Robert Gordon, Esq., Weitz & Luxenberg, P.C., New York, NY, Liaison Counsel for Plaintiffs.

Michael Axline, Esq., Miller, Axline, & Sawyer, Sacramento, CA, Counsel for Commonwealth.

Peter John Sacripanti, Esq., James A. Pardo, Esq., McDermott Will & Emery LLP, New York, NY, Liaison Counsel for Defendants.

David Peter Langlois, Esq., Sutherland Asbil & Brennan, LLP, New York, NY, Counsel for Vitol Defendants.

David N. Lutz, Esq., Dustin Fossey, Esq., Mary T. Novacheck, Esq., Bowman & Brooke, LLP, Minneapolis, MN.

Robert Dickerson Wilson, Jr., Esq., Littleton Joyce Ughetta Park & Kelly, LLP, Purchase, NY, Counsel for IAC.

OPINION AND ORDER

SHIRA A. SCHEINDLIN, District Judge.

I. INTRODUCTION

This is a consolidated multi-district litigation (''MDL'') relating to contamination - actual or threatened - of groundwater from various defendants' use of the gasoline additive methyl tertiary butyl ether ("MTBE") and/or tertiary butyl alcohol, a product formed by the breakdown of MTBE in water. In this case, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico ("the Commonwealth") alleges that defendants' use and handling of MTBE has contaminated, or threatened to contaminate groundwater within its jurisdiction. Familiarity with the underlying facts is presumed for the purposes of this Order.

Currently before the Court are two motions for summary judgment brought by Vitol, Inc. and Vitol, S.A. (collectively "Vitol Defendants"), and by Idemitsu Apollo Corporation ("IAC"), on the ground that the Commonwealth's claims are time-barred. For the reasons stated below, the motions are GRANTED.

II. BACKGROUND[1]

On June 12, 2007, the Commonwealth filed its initial complaint against gasoline suppliers for supplying or trading in gasoline products containing MTBE.[2] On October 31, 2007, the case was transferred to this Court as part of the MTBE MDL. On December 3, 2012, the Commonwealth filed its Third Amended Complaint ("TAC"), adding several defendants, including the Vitol Defendants and IAC as "Refiner/Supplier Defendants."[3] The TAC alleges that these defendants "refined, marketed and/or otherwise supplied (directly or indirectly) gasoline and/or other products containing MTBE that each such Defendant knew or should have known would be delivered into Commonwealth."[4] The TAC alleges five causes of action against the Vitol Defendants and IAC on grounds of (1) strict products liability for defective design and failure to warn; (2) public nuisance; (3) trespass; (4) negligence; and (5) violation of Puerto Rico Environmental Public Policy Act ("EPPA"), Water Pollution Control Act, and various underground storage tank control regulations.[5]

On July 16, 2013, I dismissed Counts I through V of the TAC alleged against Defendants Trammo Petroleum, Inc. and Trammo Caribbean, Inc. ("Trammo Defendants") as time-barred.[6] On August 2, 2013, I denied the Commonwealth's Motion for Reconsideration.[7]

A. Vitol Defendants

Vitol, Inc. was formed in Delaware on October 16, 2006.[8] On November 15, 2006, Vitol, Inc. filed an application for a certificate of authorization to do business as a foreign corporation in the Commonwealth.[9] The application listed "purchase and sale of petroleum products" as its stated purpose.[10] In its application, Vitol, Inc. reported one thousand dollars in assets.[11] In January 2007, the Puerto Rico Department of State issued the Certificate of Authorization, and Vitol, Inc. began its operations.[12] Vitol, Inc. has never owned, operated, or leased an underground storage tank in the Commonwealth.[13]

Vitol, S.A. is an international trading company.[14] In December 2006, Vitol, S.A. closed its branch office in Houston, Texas and discontinued its business in North America.[15] On May 18, 1994, Vitol, S.A. filed an application for a certificate of authorization to do business as a foreign corporation in the Commonwealth.[16] The application stated that Vitol, S.A.'s purpose is "to purchase, distribute, and sell all kinds of fuel, refine oil products of any kind and similar products. The Company may also participate in industrial and commercial enterprises."[17] On May 24, 1994, the Puerto Rico Department of State ...


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