Paddock Enterprises Brings CERCLA Suit Against Feds

A complaint was filed last Friday in the Northern District of Ohio by Paddock Enterprises, LLC against the federal government. The action “seeks to hold the United States responsible for environmental contamination on its property that the United States has known about, but failed to remediate, for decades.”

The plaintiff explains that the defendant’s failure to address the contamination has led Paddock to incur response costs under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA).

The federal government defendants purchased a contaminated property called the Jaite Paper Mill in the mid 1980s, according to the complaint. The complaint notes that the United States was able to purchase the property at a reduced value due to its contamination, which the defendant allegedly urged the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency to allow them to do. Paddock explains in the suit that “the United States did not want [the previous owner] to address the contamination at Jaite Mill because if [they] actually did so, Jaite Mill likely would have increased in value and cost the United States more to purchase.”

CERCLA requires all current owners and operators of a property to investigate and remediate contamination onsite. However, Paddock contends that the defendant took no actions to fulfill their CERCLA duties. Rather, the United States made the “known contaminated property” a part of the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

The plaintiff asserts that “ultimately, the United States took thirty-five years after purchasing Jaite Mill to delineate contamination that the United States knew existed prior to acquiring the property.” The United States contacted them for the Site’s response costs, since Paddock formerly owned and operated the site from 1951 to 1967.

Paddock maintains that since the United States is the current owner and operator of the Site, they are liable for past and future response costs that the plaintiff might incur at Jaite Mill. The current estimate to address the contamination is $45 million.

The complaint cites cost recovery under CERCLA and declaratory judgment. Paddock is seeking judgment that the defendant is liable to them for all costs incurred under CERCLA, interest, litigation fees, and any other relief deemed proper by the court.

Paddock is represented in the litigation by Latham & Watkins LLP.