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United States v. Middleton

United States District Court, M.D. Georgia, Albany Division

September 30, 2014



W. LOUIS SANDS, District Judge.

Presently pending before the Court is Richard Middleton, Circle Environmental, Inc., and, Inc.'s (hereinafter "Defendants") Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc. 49.) For the following reasons, Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment is DENIED.


On September 7, 2007, in response to alleged operational errors, Edwin Williams ("Williams") with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources ("GDNR") notified the United States National Response Center of hazardous material wasted at two sites: 170 5th Avenue, Terrell County, Georgia (hereinafter "Site 1") and 2222 Albany Highway, Terrell County, Georgia (hereinafter "Site 2"). (Doc. 49-2, at ¶¶1-3.) Williams' notification, identifying Circle Environmental, Inc. as the suspected responsible party, (Doc 49-4; Doc. 49-6), caused the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") to send an onscene coordinator named Dr. James. W. Webster to both locations on September 10, 2007. ( Id. ) On September 11, 2007, after Dr. Webster observed both Site 1 and Site 2, the EPA initiated emergency removal actions at both sites. (Doc. 49-2, at ¶4.)

As on-scene coordinator for the removal actions at Site 1 and Site 2, Dr. Webster received assistance from the EPA's Superfund Technical Assessment and Response Team ("START"), various EPA contractors, and EPA's Emergency Rapid Response Services ("EERS"). (Doc. 49-2, at ¶4.) On May 15, 2008, a START contractor for Site 1 and Site 2 provided Dr. Webster with a Response Report for the field activities conducted on both sites from September 11 through December 19, 2007. (Doc. 49-9.) All on-site removal activities continued until December 18, 2007. (Doc. 49-25, Doc. 49-26.) After receiving START's Response Report, Dr. Webster requested a review of the analytical data regarding air samples in START's Response Report by EPA's Technical Services Section (TSS") to determine whether further action was required. (Doc. 49-2, at ¶45.) On June 19, 2008, TSS concluded their review of the Response Report's air samples and submitted a Memorandum with several comments and suggestions. (Doc. 49-24.) Dr. Webster received TSS's Memorandum on June 23, 2008. (Doc. 49-2 at 11.) On September 18, 2008, after some delay due to a considerable workload and job promotion, Dr. Webster was finally able to finish his Final Pollution Report ("FPR") reviewing all of the site data, including the TSS's Memorandum. (Doc. 49-2, at ¶50.) As of February 28, 2011, the EPA identified $578, 283.34 at Site 1 and $135, 463.20 at Site 2 in outstanding costs as a result of their emergency removal. (Doc. 1, at ¶37.)

On September 16, 2011, to recover costs under Section 107(a) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 ("CERCLA"), 42 U.S.C. § 9607(a), the Government filed its complaint in the above-captioned matter against Defendants John Middleton, owner and operator of both Circle Environmental, Inc. and, Inc., the entity Circle Environmental, Inc., and the entity, Inc. (Doc. 1). On January 31, 2014, Defendants filed the present Motion for Summary Judgment, claiming the Government was barred by CERCLA's statute of limitations from bringing its complaint. (Doc. 49-1). On March 10, 2014, the Government filed a response opposing Defendants' Motion for Summary Judgment. (Doc 54). On March 24, 2014, Defendants filed their reply to the Governments opposition. (Doc. 58).


I. Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment

a. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56

"Summary judgment is appropriate if the pleadings, depositions, answers to interrogatories, and admissions on file, together with the affidavits, if any, show there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Chow v. Chak Yam Chau, No. 12-15994, 2014 WL 92094, *3 (11th Cir. Jan. 10, 2014) (citing Maddox v. Stephens, 727 F.3d 1109, 1118 (11th Cir. 2013)). "A genuine issue of material fact does not exist unless there is sufficient evidence favoring the nonmoving party for a reasonable jury to return a verdict in its favor." Grimes v. Miami Dade Cnty., 552 F.Appx. 902, 904 (11th Cir. 2014) (citing Chapman v. AI Transp., 229 F.3d 1012, 1023 (11th Cir. 2000)). "An issue of fact is material' if it is a legal element of the claim under the applicable substantive law which might affect the outcome of the case." Allen v. Tyson Foods, Inc., 121 F.3d 642, 646 (11th Cir. 1997) (citing Anderson v. Liberty Lobby, Inc., 477 U.S. 242, 248 (1986)). "It is genuine' if the record taken as a whole could lead a rational trier of fact to find for the nonmoving party." Tipton v. Bergrohr GMBH-Siegen, 965 F.2d 994, 998 (11th Cir. 1992) (citing Matsushita Elec. Indus. Co. v. Zenith Radio Corp., 475 U.S. 574, 587 (1986)).

The movant bears the initial burden of showing, by reference to the record, that there is no genuine issue of material fact. See Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986); Barreto v. Davie Marketplace, LLC, 331 F.Appx. 672, 673 (11th Cir. 2009). The movant can meet this burden by presenting evidence showing there is no dispute of material fact, or by demonstrating to the district court that the nonmoving party has failed to present evidence in support of some element of its case on which it bears the ultimate burden of proof. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-24. Once the movant has met its burden, the nonmoving party is required "to go beyond the pleadings" and identify "specific facts showing that there is a genuine issue for trial." Id. at 324. To avoid summary judgment, the nonmoving party "must do more than summarily deny the allegations or show that there is some metaphysical doubt as to the material facts.'" Matsuhita, 475 U.S. at 586 (citations omitted). Instead, the nonmovant must point to record evidence that would be admissible at trial. See Jones v. UPS Ground Freight, 683 F.3d 1283, 1294 (11th Cir. 2012) (quoting Macuba v. Deboer, 193 F.3d 1316, 1322 (11th Cir. 1999)) (noting that hearsay may be considered on a motion for summary judgment only if it "could be reduced to admissible evidence at trial or reduced to admissible form"). Such evidence may include affidavits or declarations that are based on personal knowledge of the affiant or declarant. See Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c)(4).

On a motion for summary judgment, the Court must view all evidence and factual inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party and determine whether that evidence could reasonably sustain a jury verdict. See Celotex, 477 U.S. at 322-23; Allen, 121 F.3d at 646. However, the Court must grant summary judgment if there is no genuine issue of material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(c).

B. Local Rule 56

Local Rule 56 requires the ...

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