Key Tronic Corp. v. United States, 511 U.S. 809, 3 (1994)

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Cite as: 511 U. S. 809 (1994)

Opinion of the Court

Ronald J. Mann, Anne S. Almy, David C. Shilton, and M. Alice Thurston.*

Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court.

Petitioner Key Tronic Corporation, one of several parties responsible for contaminating a landfill, brought this action to recover a share of its cleanup costs from other responsible parties. The question presented is whether attorney's fees are "necessary costs of response" within the meaning of 107(a)(4)(B) of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), as amended by the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA), 100 Stat. 1613, and therefore recoverable in such an action.


During the 1970's Key Tronic and other parties, including the United States Air Force, disposed of liquid chemicals at the Colbert Landfill in eastern Washington State. In 1980 the Washington Department of Ecology (WDOE) determined that the water supply in the surrounding area had been contaminated by these chemicals. Various lawsuits ensued, including formal proceedings against Key Tronic, the Air Force, and other parties.

Two of those proceedings were settled. In one settlement with WDOE and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Key Tronic agreed to contribute $4.2 million to an EPA cleanup fund. In the other, the Air Force agreed to pay the EPA $1.45 million. The EPA subsequently released the Air Force from further liability pursuant to CERCLA 122(g)(5), 42 U. S. C. 9622(g)(5), which provides that a

*Rex E. Lee, Carter G. Phillips, Janet M. Letson, Larry G. Gutterridge, and James M. Harris filed a brief for Atlantic Richfield Co. as amicus curiae urging reversal.

Michael D. Graves and Claire V. Eagan filed a brief for the Sand Springs Superfund PRP Group as amicus curiae urging affirmance.


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