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Champion Laboratories, Inc. v. Metex Corp.

December 23, 2009

CHAMPION LABORATORIES, INC., PLAINTIFF,
v.
METEX CORPORATION ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Walls, Senior District Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Plaintiff, Champion Laboratories, Inc. ("Champion"), moves this Court, pursuant to Rules 59(a) and 52(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, to amend the Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law in its August 12, 2009 Opinion and to enter judgment in Champion's favor. Pursuant to Rule 78.1 of the Local Civil Rules, the Court decides the motion without oral argument. The Court denies Champion's motion.

BACKGROUND

During December 2008 to May 2009, the Court held a bench trial. The trial yielded over 2,700 pages of transcript. The Court evaluated the credibility of seventeen witnesses and entered 186 exhibits into evidence. The Court reviewed the parties' post-trial submissions with the exhibits in evidence, witness transcripts, and the Court's own notes and evaluations from trial. The Court rendered its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law on August 12, 2009. See Champion Labs., Inc. v. Metex Corp. et al., No. 02-cv-5284, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 71200 (D.N.J. Aug. 12, 2009) (the "Opinion").

In the Opinion, the Court ruled in favor of Defendant Metex Corporation ("Metex") on Champion's Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act ("CERCLA") and state common law claims because of the Plaintiff's failure to meet its burden of proof by a preponderance of the believable evidence. The Court found that Champion could not recover any response costs under Section 107(a) of CERCLA because it had not demonstrated that it incurred any "necessary costs of response consistent with the national contingency plan." Id. at 37. The Court held that Champion was not entitled to contribution from Metex under Section 113(f) of CERLA because "the settlement for which Champion seeks contribution encompasses only its own liability." Id. at 44. The Court denied Champion's state law claims on the ground that Champion had failed to prove by a preponderance of the believable evidence that the contamination on the Interlee Site was the result of migration from the Metex site. Id. at 46.*fn1

On August 26, 2009, Champion moved this Court under Rules 52(b) and 59(a)(2) to revise its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law and to enter judgment in its favor. (Dkt 223.)

STANDARD

Even though Champion moves under Rules 52 and 59 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Local Rule 7.1(i) "governs motions for reconsideration filed in New Jersey." Byrne v. Calastro, No. 05-cv-68, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 64054, at *1 (D.N.J. Aug. 28, 2006). See also Marshak v. Treadwell, No. 95-cv-3794, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 10567, at *12 n.2 (D.N.J. Feb. 13, 2008) ("Although the [movants] have moved for reconsideration under Rule 52, Rule 59, and Rule 60 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure... in the District of New Jersey, motions for reconsideration are governed by Local Civil Rule 7.1(i).") (citations omitted).*fn2

The Third Circuit has stated that the "purpose of a motion for reconsideration is to correct manifest errors of law or fact or to present newly discovered evidence." Harsco Corp. v. Zlotnicki, 779 F.2d 906, 909 (3d Cir. 1985). As a general matter, parties seeking reconsideration must show "(1) an intervening change in the controlling law; (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court granted the motion... or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice." Max's Seafood Cafe v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999). Under Local Civil Rule 7.1(i), parties moving for reconsideration must show "concisely the matter or controlling decisions which the parties believe the Judge... has overlooked." L. Civ. R. 7.1(i).

Reconsideration is justified only when "dispositive factual matters or controlling decisions of law... were presented to, but not considered by, the court in the course of making the decision at issue." Yurecko v. Port Auth. Trans-Hudson Corp., 279 F. Supp. 2d 606, 609 (D.N.J. 2003). See also United States v. Compaction Sys. Corp., 88 F. Supp. 2d 339, 345 (D.N.J. 1999) ("Only where the court has overlooked matters that, if considered by the court, might reasonably have resulted in a different legal conclusion, will it entertain such a motion."). As a result, a motion for reconsideration is an "extremely limited procedural vehicle." Resorts Int'l v. Greate Bay Hotel & Casino, 830 F. Supp. 826, 831 (D.N.J. 1992). See also P. Schoenfeld Asset Mgmt. LLC v. Cendant Corp., 161 F. Supp. 2d 349, 352-53 (D.N.J. 2001) ("Because reconsideration of a judgment after its entry is an extraordinary remedy, requests pursuant to these rules are to be granted sparingly.") (internal quotation marks omitted).

DISCUSSION

Champion argues that the Court should revise its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law because the Court "misperceived the overwhelming quantum of evidence demonstrating that a portion of the groundwater contamination at [the Interlee Site] occurred as a result of discharges of hazardous substances at [Metex's] property." (Br. of Pl. Champion Labs., Inc. in Support of Relief under Rules of Civil Procedure 59(a)(2) and 52(b) ("Br.") at 1.) Champion's primary argument appears to be that the Court disregarded the purportedly "unambiguous" conclusion of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection ("NJDEP") that some of the contamination at the Interlee site had migrated from the Metex site. (Br. at 2.) Champion contends that the Court disregarded "entire sections of NJDEP correspondence that plainly state that Metex contributed to the contaminant plume at the Interlee Site as well as NJDEP geologist Joel Fradel's testimony to the same conclusion." (Br. at 11.)

Champion attributes the Court's purported mistake to a confusion of standards. Champion says that the NJDEP did not issue a "no further action" letter ("NFA") to Champion (which would have absolved Champion from liability for contamination at the Interlee site) because the NJDEP was not satisfied that all of the contamination at the Interlee site had migrated from Metex. But Champion notes that, in this action, it needed only to show that some of the contamination at the Interlee site had ...


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