Amcast Indus. Corp. v. Detrex Corp.

Decision Date18 November 1991
Docket NumberNo. S88-620 (RLM).,S88-620 (RLM).
PartiesAMCAST INDUSTRIAL CORPORATION, et al., Plaintiffs, v. DETREX CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Indiana

779 F. Supp. 1519

DETREX CORPORATION, et al., Defendants.

No. S88-620 (RLM).

United States District Court, N.D. Indiana, South Bend Division.

November 18, 1991.

779 F. Supp. 1520
779 F. Supp. 1521
779 F. Supp. 1522
779 F. Supp. 1523
D. Jeffrey Ireland, Armistead W. Gilliam, Jr., Ann Wightman, Dayton, Ohio, John J. Lorber, Robert J. Palmer, South Bend, Ind., for plaintiffs

Arthur G. Surguine, Jr., James J. Shea, Fort Wayne, Ind., for defendants.

779 F. Supp. 1524


MILLER, District Judge.

This is a CERCLA case in which the plaintiff seeks to recover response costs against a supplier of a hazardous substance, whose drivers are claimed to have spilled the substance during deliveries. The cause comes before the court on the motion by defendant Detrex Corporation's for summary judgment, the plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment, and Detrex's first and second motions to strike portions of the documentary evidence submitted in support of the plaintiffs' partial summary judgment motion. The parties' briefing, which consisted as much of disparagement of the others' arguments as positive arguments of their own, began on August 19 and appears to have come to a close on November 8.

The court acknowledges the plaintiffs' request for oral argument on their motion for partial summary judgment and on the first motion to strike. However, the parties' thorough memoranda sufficiently aid the court that oral argument will not be necessary, particularly in recognition of the proximity of the December 2 trial date.


Plaintiff Elkhart Products Corporation ("EPC") operates a manufacturing plant in Elkhart, Indiana. EPC is a wholly owned subsidiary of plaintiff Amcast Industrial Corporation ("Amcast"). Detrex manufactures chemicals for industrial uses, including a solvent known as trichloroethylene ("TCE"), a hazardous substance as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 9601(14). TCE is a mutagen and a suspected carcinogen, and human exposure to this substance may cause eye and skin irritation, headaches, heart disease, and liver damage.

Detrex marketed its chemicals to Indiana customers through its Gold Shield Solvents Division in Indianapolis. Detrex sold TCE to EPC between 1978 and 1986, making approximately thirty-four deliveries to the Elkhart site. Detrex was EPC's sole supplier of TCE during those years. Detrex employed five drivers to deliver the solvent. However, for fifteen of the thirty-four deliveries, Detrex used the services of an independent common carrier, Transport Services Company ("Transport").

The plaintiffs contend that TCE was spilled when it was delivered by Detrex or Transport drivers, contaminating the soil and groundwater. The plaintiffs assert that the drivers spilled two to five gallons of TCE with each delivery, and twice spilled greater quantities. One occasion involved an overfilling of EPC's tank, resulting in a 200 to 300 gallon spill that destroyed the asphalt pavement surrounding the tank. The other incident involved the driver's failure to close the valve of his truck, causing a two inch stream of TCE to be discharged from the truck as it left the EPC site.

EPC learned of the TCE groundwater contamination in the 1980s, following an investigation of a complaint that TCE was travelling from the groundwater beneath EPC's plant and polluting the groundwater beneath Miles Laboratories, a pharmaceutical manufacturer located across the street.

The plaintiffs further allege that they expended more than $1 million to monitor the release of TCE into the environment, take short term action to eliminate risks, and design and install a permanent remedy. EPC claimed that its remedial action will cost nearly $1.5 million and that it sustained $1 million in property damage.

In a letter dated August 27, 1986, EPC's president demanded that Detrex reimburse EPC for the cost of the remedial measures. Detrex did not reimburse EPC. Amcast and EPC brought this action pursuant to the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act ("CERCLA"), as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601 et seq., and the Declaratory Judgment Act, 28 U.S.C. § 2201. The plaintiffs also sought common law tort and contractual remedies.


A party seeking summary judgment must demonstrate that no genuine issue of fact exists for trial and that the movant is

779 F. Supp. 1525
entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c); Certain Underwriters of Lloyd's v. General Accident Ins. Co. of America, 909 F.2d 228, 231 (7th Cir.1990). If that showing is made and the motion's opponent would bear the burden at trial on the matter that forms the basis of the motion, the opponent must come forth with evidence to show what facts are in actual dispute. Lujan v. National Wildlife Federation, ___ U.S. ___, 110 S.Ct. 3177, 3186, 111 L.Ed.2d 695 (1990); Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 106 S.Ct. 2548, 91 L.Ed.2d 265 (1986); Sims v. Mulcahy, 902 F.2d 524, 540 (7th Cir.), cert. denied ___ U.S. ___, 111 S.Ct. 249, 112 L.Ed.2d 207 (1990). If he fails to do so, summary judgment is proper. Fitzpatrick v. Catholic Bishop of Chicago, 916 F.2d 1254, 1256 (7th Cir.1990); Tatalovich v. City of Superior, 904 F.2d 1135, 1142 (7th Cir.1990). A genuine factual issue exists only when there is sufficient evidence for a jury to return a verdict for the motion's opponent. Harbor House Condominium Ass'n v. Massachusetts Bay Ins. Co., 915 F.2d 316, 320 (7th Cir.1990); Hines v. British Steel Corp., 907 F.2d 726, 728 (7th Cir.1990). Summary judgment should be granted if no reasonable jury could return a verdict for the motion's opponent. Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 106 S.Ct. 2505, 91 L.Ed.2d 202 (1986); Visser v. Packer Engineering Associates, Inc., 924 F.2d 655, 660 (7th Cir.1991)

The parties cannot rest on mere allegations in the pleadings, Hughes v. Joliet Correctional Center, 931 F.2d 425, 428 (7th Cir.1991); McCarthy v. Kemper Life Ins. Companies, 924 F.2d 683, 687 (7th Cir.1991), or upon conclusory allegations in affidavits. Mestayer v. Wisconsin Physicians Service Ins. Corp., 905 F.2d 1077, 1079 (7th Cir.1990). The court must construe the facts as favorably to the non-moving party as the record will permit, Brennan v. Daley, 929 F.2d 346, 348 (7th Cir.1991); Soldal v. County of Cook, 923 F.2d 1241, 1245 (7th Cir.1991), and draw any permissible inferences from the materials before it in favor of the non-moving party, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 106 S.Ct. 1348, 89 L.Ed.2d 538 (1986); Illinois Bell Telephone Co. v. Haines and Co., Inc., 905 F.2d 1081, 1087 (7th Cir.1990), as long as the inferences are reasonable. Bank Leumi Le-Israel, B.M. v. Lee, 928 F.2d 232, 236 (7th Cir.1991). The non-moving party must show that the disputed fact is material, or outcome-determinative, under applicable law. Johnson v. Pelker, 891 F.2d 136, 138 (7th Cir.1989).

The court will address the parties' motions for summary judgment with these standards in mind.


The plaintiffs and Detrex each seek summary judgment on count I, which alleges that Detrex and its drivers are strictly liable for the plaintiff's response costs under 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a)(1) because Detrex is the owner or operator of a facility from which there was a release of hazardous substances. Detrex also moves for summary judgment in its favor as to Counts II, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, IX, and XIII and the request for punitive damages in the complaint. Count II alleges that Detrex is strictly liable under 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a)(3) for response costs because Detrex arranged for the disposal of a hazardous substance which caused contamination at the site.

Count IV of the complaint alleges that an implied term existed in the contract between Detrex and the plaintiffs that required Detrex to deliver TCE without spillage and without causing environmental damage; the plaintiffs claim that Detrex breached this implied term. Count V asserts that Detrex committed a trespass when it spilled TCE at the site. Count VI alleges negligence by the drivers who delivered TCE, and Count VII alleges that Detrex negligently hired and trained its delivery drivers. Count VIII asserts Detrex is strictly liable for damages because its delivery of TCE constituted an "abnormally dangerous activity."1 Count IX asserted a

779 F. Supp. 1526
nuisance claim and Count XIII asserted an indemnity claim, but the plaintiffs have withdrawn those counts of the complaint

A. Evidence of the Spills

The proposition that Detrex caused TCE to be spilled is common to each of the counts. If there were no spills, Detrex engaged in no "release" (Count I), engaged in no "disposal" (Count II), breached no implied "anti-spillage" provision in the contract (Count IV), did not exceed the scope of its invitation so as to commit a trespass (Count V), and engaged in no abnormally dangerous activity (Count VIII). If there were no spills, the plaintiff suffered no damages due to the negligence of Detrex's drivers (Count VI) or Detrex's negligence in training or retaining those drivers (Count VII). Detrex argues that the plaintiffs have no admissible evidence to prove any TCE spillage by Detrex, and has moved to strike several portions of depositions that the plaintiffs seek to use as proof.

Detrex argues that the court must exclude, on hearsay grounds, see Fed.R.Ev. 802, the portions of the testimony of Clifton Cartwright, Henry Copenhaver, Gary Emerson, John Graber, Ed Hosea, Richard Mann, Robert Patterson, Dennis Selner, David Smith, and Robert Todd in which the deponents relate that they heard about TCE spills from others. Detrex cites Visser v. Packer Engineering Associates, Inc., 924 F.2d 655, 659 (7th Cir.1991), in which the Seventh Circuit noted that affidavits offered...

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