United States District Court, S.D. Georgia
JONES CREEK INVESTORS, LLC and SAVANNAH RIVERKEEPER, INC., Plaintiffs,
COLUMBIA COUNTY, GEORGIA and CSX TRANSPORTATION, INC. Defendants.
GODBEY WOOD CHIEF JUDGE
Columbia County, Georgia ("Columbia County") moves
for Plaintiff Jones Creek Investors, LLC ("JCI") to
account for money JCI received under consent decrees with
other defendants in this litigation. Dkt. No. 540. This
motion will be denied.
owns a golf club and lake in Columbia County, Georgia. Dkt.
No. 94 ¶ 6. Its property floods, allegedly due to excess
storm-water discharge. Id. ¶ 181. JCI claims
the discharge is caused by failures of the defendants in this
lawsuit. See generally id. JCI seeks, among other
things, damages and remediation. Id. ¶¶
192, 343, 365.
sets of defendants settled with JCI. Dkt. Nos. 189, 204, 211,
227, 269, 326. Each settlement agreement committed the
defendant to putting money into escrow pending the
defendant's dismissal, with the amount including "a
reasonable portion of the remediation and restoration
costs." Dkt. No. 548-1 at 5-6; Dkt. No. 548-2 at 5-6;
Dkt. No. 548-3 at 7. Each also described remediation each
defendant had undertaken or would undertake. Dkt. No. 548-1
at 6-7; Dkt. No. 548-2 at 6-7; Dkt. No. 548-3 at 8-11.
filed proposed consent decrees. Dkt. Nos. 189-1, 211-1,
269-1. Each parroted the settlement agreement's language
described above, and disclaimed having any third-party
beneficiaries. Dkt. No. 189-1 at 6-7, 11; Dkt. No. 211-1 at
6-7, 10; Dkt. No. 269-1 at 7-10, 13.
proposed consent decree was reviewed by the federal
government, pursuant to the Clean Water Act. See 33
U.S.C. § 1365(c)(3); Dkt. Nos. 197, 226, 311. The United
States did not object to them. It noted that JCI was being
paid "for remediation and restoration that the . . .
defendants were required to complete" because that work
could not "be completed in a piecemeal fashion, "
the settlements were partial, and JCI was "reluctant to
have the . . . defendants involved in the remediation and
restoration." Dkt. No. 197 at 2; see also Dkt.
No. 22 6 at 2; Dkt. No. 311 at 3.
receiving these non-objections, the Court entered the consent
decrees. Dkt. Nos. 204, 227, 326.
County now complains that JCI has not begun remediation and
must both account for the consent-decree money and
"describe when and how it intends to remediate the
impacts allegedly caused by" the defendants who settled.
Dkt. No. 540 at 2. JCI responded in opposition, dkt. no. 548,
and the motion is now ripe for disposition.
is an equitable remedy. Phillips v. Publ'g Co.,
No. CV213-069, 2015 WL 5821501, at *7 (S.D. Ga. Sept. 14,
2015). A court "has broad discretion to determine
whether it is appropriate." First Commodity Traders,
Inc. v. Heinold Commodities, Inc., 766 F.2d 1007, 1011
(7th Cir. 1985). But it cannot be ordered unless there is no
adequate remedy at law. Dairy Queen, Inc. v. Wood,
369 U.S. 469, 478 (1962).
would be inappropriate here. Columbia County lacks the right
sort of relationship to JCI. Accounting details "debts
and credits between parties arising out of a contract or
a fiduciary relation." Bates v. Nw. Human
Servs., Inc., 466 F.Supp.2d 69, 103 (D.D.C. 2006)
(emphasis added) (citing, inter alia, P.V. Props., Inc.
v. Rock Creek Vill. Assocs. Ltd. P'ship, 549 A.2d
403, 409 (Md. Ct. Spec. App.1998) ("An accounting may be
had where one party is under an obligation to pay money to
another based upon facts and records which are known and kept
exclusively by the party to whom the obligation is owed, or
where there is a confidential or fiduciary relation between
the parties . . . .")); see also Am. Air Filter Co.
v. McNichol, 527 F.2d 1297, 1300 (3d Cir. 1975);
Phillippi v. Jim Phillippi, Inc., Nos. 2:07-CV-916,
2:07-CV-1001, 2009 WL 1911763, at *3 (S.D. Ohio June 26,
2009)("[A]ccounting ... is designed only to provide
disclosure to a [party] of how much he or she is owed by
another . . . ."(citing Bradshaw v. Thompson,
454 F.2d 75, 79 (6th Cir. 1972))); cf. Therrell v. Ga.
Marble Holdings Corp., 960 F.2d 1555, 1566 (11th Cir.
1992) (interpreting Georgia law to require party to prove
"something is owed them"). Without such a
relationship, accounting is inappropriate. Haynes v. Navy
Fed. Credit Union, 52 F.Supp.3d 1, 10 (D.D.C. 2014).
Columbia County does not allege such a relationship here, so
accounting must be denied. See generally Dkt. No. 540;
Dkt. No. 189-1 at 11 (disavowing third-party beneficiaries);
Dkt. No. 211-1 at 10 (same); Dkt. No. 269-1 at 13 (same).
County argues that JCI is not mitigating its alleged damages,
and that Columbia County's residents have an interest in
JCI doing remediation. Dkt. No. 540 at 10-11. The mitigation
contention does not support accounting because there is an
easy legal remedy: reducing JCI's damages. As for the public
interest, accounting does not let a party find out how much
its opponent owes somebody else. Phillippi, 2009 WL
1911763, at *3. Even less so would it let ...