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Asarco, LLC v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

March 28, 2013

ASARCO, LLC, Plaintiff,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, and UNION PACIFIC CORPORATION, Defendants

Page 1198

For Asarco LLC, a Delaware LLC, Plaintiff: Gregory Evans, James G Warren, William R Pletcher, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, Integer Law Corporation, Los Angeles, CA; Linda R Larson, Russell C Prugh, Steven G Jones, LEAD ATTORNEYS, PRO HAC VICE, Marten Law PLLC, Seattle, WA; Michael Philip Lawrence, LEAD ATTORNEY, Givens Pursley LLP, Boise, ID; Jeffrey C Fereday, GIVENS PURSLEY, Boise, ID.

For Union Pacific Railroad Company, a Utah corporation, Union Pacific Corporation, a Delaware corporation, Defendants: Ausey H Robnett, III, LEAD ATTORNEY, PAINE HAMBLEN COFFIN BROOKE & MILLER, Coeur d'Alene, ID; Carolyn L McIntosh, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Patton Boggs LLP, Denver, CO; Robert W Lawrence, LEAD ATTORNEY, PRO HAC VICE, Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP, Denver, CO.

OPINION

Page 1199

Honorable Edward J. Lodge, U.S. District Judge.

MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

Before the Court in the above entitled matter are the Defendants' Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) and a related Motion to Strike. The parties have filed their responsive briefing and the matter is ripe for the Court's review. Having fully reviewed the record herein, the Court finds that the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record. Accordingly, in the interest of avoiding further delay, and because the Court conclusively finds that the decisional process would not be significantly aided by oral argument, the Motions shall be decided on the record before this Court without oral argument.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On June 5, 2012, Plaintiff, ASARCO LLC, filed a Complaint in this matter seeking contribution under § 113(f) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (" CERCLA" ), 42 U.S.C. § 9601, et seq. from Defendants Union Pacific Railroad Company and Union Pacific Railroad Corporation (collectively referred to as " Union Pacific" ). (Dkt. 1.) Union Pacific filed a Motion to Dismiss the Complaint for failure to state a claim. (Dkt. 15.) Thereafter, ASARCO filed its First Amended Complaint (" FAC" ) to which Union Pacific filed a new Motion to Dismiss and a Motion to Strike. (Dkt. 24, 31, 44.) The parties have fully briefed the Motion to Dismiss and the matter is now ripe for the Court's consideration.

STANDARD OF LAW

A motion to dismiss made pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6) tests the sufficiency of a party's claim for relief. When considering such a motion, the Court's inquiry is whether the allegations in a pleading are sufficient under applicable pleading standards. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a) sets forth minimum pleading rules, requiring only a " short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2).

A motion to dismiss will only be granted if the complaint fails to allege " enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face." Bell A. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570, 127 S.Ct. 1955, 167 L.Ed.2d 929 (2007). " A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged. The plausibility standard is not akin to a 'probability requirement,' but it asks for more than a sheer possibility that a defendant has acted unlawfully." Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 678, 129 S.Ct. 1937, 173 L.Ed.2d 868 (2009) (citations omitted). Although " we must take all of the factual allegations in the complaint as true, we are not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Id. at 1949-50; see also Manzarek v. St. Paul Fire & Marine Ins. Co., 519 F.3d 1025, 1031 (9th Cir. 2008). Therefore, " conclusory allegations of law and unwarranted inferences are insufficient to defeat a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim." Caviness v. Horizon Comm. Learning Cent., Inc., 590 F.3d 806, 811-12 (9th Cir. 2010) (citation omitted).

DISCUSSION

Union Pacific's Motion to Dismiss argues the claims in the Amended Complaint

Page 1200

should be dismissed because they are barred by: 1) prior settlement agreements, 2) res judicata, 3) judicial estoppel, 4) the statute of limitations, and 5) the fact that ASARCO has no contribution rights against Union Pacific. (Dkt. 32.) ASARCO disputes each of these arguments and maintains its FAC has properly stated a claim for relief sufficient to overcome the Motion to Dismiss. (Dkt. 40.) The Court finds as follows.

1. Statute of Limitations

Union Pacific raises two arguments concerning the timeliness of the claims made in this case: 1) violation of CERCLA's statute of limitations and 2) the new claims in the FAC do not relate back to those made in the initial Complaint. (Dkt. 32.) ASARCO maintains its claims are timely. (Dkt. 41.) Because these arguments are threshold considerations, the Court addresses them first.

A. CERCLA § 113(g)(3)(B)

The initial Complaint filed in this case, Union Pacific asserts, was outside of the three-year limitations period prescribed in CERCLA § 113(g)(3)(B), which states: " No action for contribution for any response costs or damages may be commenced more than 3 years after--(B) the date of ... entry of a judicially approved settlement with respect to such costs or damages." 42 U.S.C. § 9613(g)(3)(B). In calculating the three year time period, Union Pacific argues the day the 2009 CDA Settlement was entered, June 5, 2009, is counted as the first day. (Dkt. 31 at 26.) Therefore, the three years expired on June 4, 2012 and the initial Complaint was untimely as it was not filed in this case until June 5, 2012. (Dkt. 1.)

This is not the first time this argument has been raised. See ASARCO, LLC v. Hela Min. Co., Case No. CV-12-0381-LRS, 2012 WL 5929962, *3 (E.D. Wash. Nov. 27, 2012). The Court finds the appropriate calculation for determining the dates for the three year limitations period is that used in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 6(a). Id. Under that calculation, the initial Complaint filed ...


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