United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
NEWBERN MAGISTRATE JUDGE.
WILLIAM L. CAMPBELL, JR. UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
before the Court is a Motion for Partial Judgment on the
Pleadings Pursuant to Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(c) (Doc. No. 27), filed
by Defendants Yong Y. Lee, Dong Y. Lee, Joong S. Seo, and
Hyunmi K. Seo. Plaintiffs have filed responses to the Motion
(Doc. Nos. 36, 63) and Defendants have filed a reply brief
(Doc. No. 40). For the reasons set forth below, the Motion
for Partial Judgment on the Pleadings (Doc. No. 27) is
Factual and Procedural Background
their Amended Complaint (Doc. No. 42),  Plaintiffs 2121
Abbott Martin Partners, LLC, and Bradford Realty Partners
allege they are owners of certain real property located in
Nashville, Tennessee, on which Defendants Yong Y. Lee, Dong
Y. Lee, Joong S. Seo, Hyunmi K. Seo, and Greg Davis formerly
owned and/or operated a dry-cleaning business. Plaintiffs
allege the site has been contaminated with material used in
the dry-cleaning business, and seek relief from Defendants
under the Comprehensive Environment Response Compensation and
Liability Act of 1980, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§
9501, et seq. (“CERCLA”).
specifically, Plaintiffs allege they incurred costs in
cleaning up the contamination between 2007 and approximately
2013, and Count I seeks recovery of those costs based on
CERCLA Section 107(a) (42 U.S.C. §
9607(a)). Plaintiffs further allege that, as part of
an administrative settlement (“the Brownfield Voluntary
Agreement” or “BVA”) with the Tennessee
Department of Environment and Conservation
(“TDEC”) entered on June 15, 2018, they have
incurred other costs, and expect to incur additional costs in
the future, and Count II seeks recovery of those costs based
on CERCLA Section 113(f)(3)(B) (42 U.S.C. §
9613(f)(3)(B)). All the defendants except Greg Davis have
filed the pending Motion for Partial Judgment on the
Pleadings (Doc. No. 27) seeking to dismiss Count I.
The Standards Governing Motions for Judgment on the
considering a motion for judgment on the pleadings under Rule
12(c) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a court must
determine whether the allegations establish the party making
the motion is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Depositors Ins. Co. v. Estate of Ryan, 637 Fed.Appx.
864, 868 (6th Cir. 2016); JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v.
Winget, 510 F.3d 577, 582 (6th Cir.2007). The court is
to accept as true all well-pleaded material allegations of
the complaint. Id. The court need not accept as
true, however, legal conclusions or unwarranted factual
CERCLA Sections 107(a) and 113(f)(3)(B)
argue Count I should be dismissed because Plaintiffs may only
seek to recover their cleanup costs under Section
113(f)(3)(B),  not Section 107(a),  given that
Plaintiffs have entered into a settlement agreement with
TDEC. Plaintiffs argue they are entitled to seek recovery
under Section 107(a) for costs that were not incurred as part
of the settlement agreement with TDEC.
noted by the Supreme Court in United States v. Atlantic
Research Corp., 551 U.S. 128, 127 S.Ct. 2331, 2333, 168
L.Ed.2d 28 (2007), both Sections 107(a) and 113(f)(3)(B)
“allow private parties to recover expenses associated
with cleaning up contaminated sites.” Section 107(a)
permits a private party to recoup CERCLA-related costs from
other potentially responsible parties (“PRPs”).
Id. Section 113(f)(3)(B) permits a private party to
seek contribution from other PRPs after it has settled its
liability with either the federal or state government. 127
S.Ct. at 2334 n. 1. The Court described the interaction
between these two provisions as follows:
Section 113(f) explicitly grants PRPs a right to
contribution. Contribution is defined as the
‘tortfeasor's right to collect from others
responsible for the same tort after the tortfeasor has paid
more than his or her proportionate share, the shares being
determined as a percentage of fault.' Black's Law
Dictionary 353 (8th ed.2004). Nothing in § 113(f)
suggests that Congress used the term ‘contribution'
in anything other than this traditional sense. The statute
authorizes a PRP to seek contribution ‘during or
following' a suit under § 106 or § 107(a). 42
U.S.C. § 9613(f)(1). Thus, § 113(f)(1) permits suit
before or after the establishment of ...