COOPER INDUSTRIES, INC. v. AVIALL SERVICES, INC.

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
02-1192
Petitioner 
Cooper Industries, Inc.
Respondent 
Aviall Services, Inc.
Advocates
(argued the cause for Petitioner, on behalf of the United States, as amicus curiae)
(argued the cause for Petitioner)
(argued the cause for Respondent)
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Facts of the Case 

Texas prodded Aviall Services to clean up contaminated property bought from Cooper Industries. Aviall sued in federal district court to force Cooper to pay some of the clean up costs. Aviall claimed it could sue Cooper under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA). Cooper admitted to being a potentially responsible party (PRP), but claimed it was not liable because Aviall was never sued to clean up the land and had no federal requirement to do so. The district court and a panel for the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against Aviall. The entire appellate court reversed and ruled CERCLA does not require a PRP to first be sued before seeking clean up funds from other PRPs.

Question 

Does the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) require that a party liable for pollution be sued under CERCLA before seeking clean up funds from other liable parties?

Conclusion 
Decision: 7 votes for Cooper Industries, Inc., 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: 42 U.S.C. 9613

In a 7-2 opinion delivered by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court held that a private party, who, like Aviall, had not been sued under CERCLA could not obtain cleanup contributions from other liable parties. The Court reasoned that CERCLA's language made clear that parties could seek cleanup contribution only during or following a civil action.

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COOPER INDUSTRIES, INC. v. AVIALL SERVICES, INC.. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 20 October 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2004/2004_02_1192>.
COOPER INDUSTRIES, INC. v. AVIALL SERVICES, INC., The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2004/2004_02_1192 (last visited October 20, 2014).
"COOPER INDUSTRIES, INC. v. AVIALL SERVICES, INC.," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed October 20, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2004/2004_02_1192.