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Personal cars fall under federal act exemption

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The billing agent for a central Indiana volunteer fire department can’t bill individuals involved in auto accidents with their personal vehicles for clean-up costs of hazardous substances, according to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

In Emergency Services Billing Corp. Inc., individually (and as agent for) agent of Westville Volunteer Fire Department v. Allstate Insurance Co., et al., No. 11-2381, Emergency Services Billing Corp., which is the billing agent for the Westville Volunteer Fire Department, sent invoices itemizing the response costs incurred by the fire department to four individuals involved in separate auto accidents. ESBC believed the individuals and their auto insurers would be liable under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act.

The District Court held that motor vehicles for personal use fall under the “consumer product in consumer use” exception to CERCLA’s definition of facility, and so defendants can’t be charged with the fire department’s costs for responding to the accidents.

The CERCLA allows for clean-up costs to be recovered from owners of a “facility” in which hazardous substances have been released. The CERCLA definition of facility includes motor vehicles, but the definition states a facility does not include “any consumer product in consumer use.”

ESBC argued that the phrase “consumer product” is ambiguous and the courts should defer to how the Environmental Protection Agency has defined the term; defendants maintained any use of tools outside of the statute to define the term is inappropriate.

The 7th Circuit affirmed the District Court’s decision, finding the defendant’s interpretation of “consumer product” to be persuasive.

“CERCLA’s ‘consumer product’ exemption from the term ‘facilities’ cannot reasonably be read to exclude personally-owned, personally-operated motor vehicles,” wrote Judge Joel Flaum. “The language of CERCLA is clear on its face, and a look into CERCLA’s legislative history, the term ‘consumer product’ as it is used in other statutes, and the EPA’s interpretation of the term only confirms our conclusion.”

 

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  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

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