MEGHRIG v. KFC WESTERN, INC.

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
95-83
Petitioner 
Meghrig
Respondent 
KFC Western, Inc.
Advocates
(Argued the cause for the petitioners)
(On behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae, supporting the petitioners)
(Argued the cause for the respondent)
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Facts of the Case 

Three years after complying with a county order to clean up petroleum contamination discovered on its property, KFC Western, Inc. brought an action under the citizen suit provision -- Section 6972 -- of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA) to recover its cleanup costs from the Meghrigs. KFC claimed that the contamination had previously posed an "imminent and substantial endangerment" to health or the environment and that the Meghrigs were responsible for "equitable restitution" under the Act because, as prior owners of the property, they had contributed to the contaminated site. The District Court dismissed the complaint, holding that 6972(a) does not permit recovery of past cleanup costs and that 6972 does not authorize a cause of action for the remediation of toxic waste that does not pose an "imminent and substantial endangerment" at the time suit is filed. In reversing, the Court of Appeals disagreed with the District Court on both issues.

Question 

May plaintiffs use the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 to sue and recover money they spent to clean up hazardous waste on their property?

Conclusion 
Decision: 9 votes for Meghrig, 0 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 42 U.S.C. 6972

No. In a unanimous opinion delivered by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor the Court held that section 6972 does not authorize a private cause of action to recover the prior cost of cleaning up toxic waste that does not, at the time of suit, continue to pose an endangerment to health or the environment. Writing for the court, Justice O'Connor said the law only allows private citizens to sue to minimize the present and future threat to human health and the environment and is not directed at providing compensation for past cleanup efforts.

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MEGHRIG v. KFC WESTERN, INC.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 24 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_95_83>.
MEGHRIG v. KFC WESTERN, INC., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_95_83 (last visited October 24, 2014).
"MEGHRIG v. KFC WESTERN, INC.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 24, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1995/1995_95_83.