The opinion of the court was delivered by: POLITAN
This matter comes before the Court on the motion of defendant 280 Development Corporation ("280 Development") to dismiss the claims against it by plaintiff, Global Landfill Agreement Group ("Agreement Group"), under CERCLA and the New Jersey Spill Act. The Court heard oral argument on the matter on December 22, 1997. Based upon the reasoning set forth more fully below, defendant's motion to dismiss the claims is GRANTED, and the Amended Complaint is hereby DISMISSED AS TO 280 DEVELOPMENT GROUP.
This is an action under sections 107 and 113 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act ("CERCLA"), as amended, and the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act ("Spill Act") for the recovery of costs incurred and to be incurred in response to the release or threatened release of hazardous substances at the Global Landfill in Old Bridge, New Jersey ("the Site"). The Agreement Group is obligated to perform the remedy at the Site by virtue of a Consent Decree with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ("NJDEP"). The Agreement Group has filed this action to seek contribution from other responsible parties for the cleanup costs.
280 Development was a New Jersey corporation. The Agreement Group alleges in the Amended Complaint that 280 Development arranged for the disposal of hazardous substances at the Site. Accordingly, 280 Development would fall within the definition of a potentially responsible party ("PRP") under both CERCLA and the Spill Act.
280 Development maintains that it dissolved in 1987 and had distributed all of its assets and finalized all of its affairs prior to the commencement of this lawsuit. Therefore, it alleges that it is not subject to suit for claims arising out of CERCLA or the Spill Act.
Defendants have characterized this as a motion to dismiss pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6). In deciding the motion, reference must be made to documents in addition to the Complaint. When matters beyond the scope of the pleadings are considered by the Court, the proper motion is one for summary judgment pursuant to Rule 56. See Boyle v. Governor's Veterans Outreach & Assistance Ctr., 925 F.2d 71 (3d Cir. 1991); Miller v. Beneficial Management Corp., 776 F. Supp. 936, 951 (D.N.J. 1991), rev'd on other grounds, 977 F.2d 834 (3d Cir. 1992).
Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure directs a court to enter summary judgment against a party which has failed to establish the existence of an essential element of its cause of action, and as to which that party bears the ultimate burden of proof at trial. Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323, 91 L. Ed. 2d 265, 106 S. Ct. 2548 (1986); Spangle v. Valley Forge Sewer Auth., 839 F.2d 171, 173 (3d Cir. 1988). The purpose of summary judgment is to eliminate a trial where it is unnecessary and would only cause delay and expense to the court and the litigants. Goodman v. Mead Johnson & Co., 534 F.2d 566, 573 (3d Cir. 1976), cert. denied, 429 U.S. 1038, 50 L. Ed. 2d 748, 97 S. Ct. 732 (1977).
Under Rule 56, summary judgment may only be granted if, drawing all inferences in favor of the nonmoving party, there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. See Chipollini v. Spencer Gifts, Inc., 814 F.2d 893, 896 (3d Cir. 1987), cert. dismissed, 483 U.S. 1052 (1987). The moving party bears the initial burden of identifying evidence which demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact. Celotex, 477 U.S. at 323. Once that burden has been met, the nonmoving party must set forth "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial," id. at 324, or the factual record will be taken as presented by the moving party and judgment will be entered as a matter of law. See Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co., Ltd. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 89 L. Ed. 2d 538, 106 S. Ct. 1348 (1986).
There are no genuine issues of material fact in the case sub judice. Rather, the issue is the proper construction of the New Jersey statute regarding dissolved corporations.
It is clear that CERCLA mandates that state law must be utilized in order to determine a party's capacity to be sued.
Any person may seek contribution from any other person who is liable or potentially liable under section 9607(a) of this title, during or following any civil action under section 9606 of this title or under section 9607(a) of this title. Such claims shall be brought in ...