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Magistrate: Uniroyal not liable for cleanup costs

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As a federal magistrate judge puts it, "All good things must come to an end."

That is the beginning line of U.S. Magistrate Judge Christopher Nuechterlein's order issued Thursday in City of Mishawaka v. Uniroyal Holding, No. 3:04-CV-125, which finds the liability holding company with the tire maker's name isn't legally obligated to pay for environmental cleanup expenses at a site its corporate predecessors have occupied since 1874.

The magistrate judge's 14-page order is part of a 5-year-old case involving a long history of corporate ownership changes and who should ultimately be responsible for paying Mishawaka's cleanup costs related to the 43 acres at 312 N. Hill St.

Originally, the site was a rubber company purchased in the 1920s and manufacturing operations happened there for 75 years. The name changed to Uniroyal in the 1980s and a subsidiary holding company was created. Agreements detailed liability through the years through corporate ownership changes, but the holding company remained.

The Environmental Protection Agency had removed hazardous substances from the site in 1998 and the city claimed it spent more than $3.5 million in subsequent cleanup costs. A settlement resulted in the holding company paying about $50,000 to the city, but Uniroyal denied it was liable for the entire amount because of the ownership agreements and changes through the years. The court ultimately agreed based on insufficient proof and arguments from Mishawaka, and express language contained in restructuring plans.

"Other than pointing to two persons exercising control over both entities (Uniroyal's manufacturing operations and Uniroyal Holding), Mishawaka has failed to show how Uniroyal Holding can reasonably be seen as maintaining the same essential characteristics of Uniroyal," he wrote, granting the company's motion for summary judgment. "As such, this Court concludes that Mishawaka has not established that Uniroyal Holding is responsible for the site, based either on the legal theories argued or on the equitable theory of successor liability."

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  1. Well, maybe it's because they are unelected, and, they have a tendency to strike down laws by elected officials from all over the country. When you have been taught that "Democracy" is something almost sacred, then, you will have a tendency to frown on such imperious conduct. Lawyers get acculturated in law school into thinking that this is the very essence of high minded government, but to people who are more heavily than King George ever did, they may not like it. Thanks for the information.

  2. I pd for a bankruptcy years ago with Mr Stiles and just this week received a garnishment from my pay! He never filed it even though he told me he would! Don't let this guy practice law ever again!!!

  3. Excellent initiative on the part of the AG. Thankfully someone takes action against predators taking advantage of people who have already been through the wringer. Well done!

  4. Conour will never turn these funds over to his defrauded clients. He tearfully told the court, and his daughters dutifully pledged in interviews, that his first priority is to repay every dime of the money he stole from his clients. Judge Young bought it, much to the chagrin of Conour’s victims. Why would Conour need the $2,262 anyway? Taxpayers are now supporting him, paying for his housing, utilities, food, healthcare, and clothing. If Conour puts the money anywhere but in the restitution fund, he’s proved, once again, what a con artist he continues to be and that he has never had any intention of repaying his clients. Judge Young will be proven wrong... again; Conour has no remorse and the Judge is one of the many conned.

  5. Pass Legislation to require guilty defendants to pay for the costs of lab work, etc as part of court costs...

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