United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division
ORDER AND MEMORANDUM DECISION RE: CONTRIBUTION CLAIMS
FOR SETTLEMENT PAYMENTS
CAMPBELL U.S. DISTRICT COURT JUDGE
2010, crude oil from a pipeline owned by Chevron Pipe Line
Company (CPL) leaked into Red Butte Creek in Salt Lake City
after an electrical arc from Rocky Mountain Power's (RMP)
electrical transition station created a hole in the pipeline.
Individual residents sued CPL and RMP. CPL and RMP filed
claims against each other. Now RMP asks the court to
eliminate one category of damages that CPL seeks from RMP:
settlement payments to the individual residents. For the
reasons set forth below, RMP's motion for partial summary
judgment concerning CPL's contribution claim for
settlement payments is GRANTED.
2010, approximately 800 barrels of crude oil in CPL's
pipeline leaked into Red Butte Creek. In December 2010, a
second release of crude oil occurred. RMP was not associated
with the December release.
sixty homeowners living along the path of the spill filed
claims against CPL for trespass, nuisance, negligence, and
breach of contract, and sought payment of damages caused by
the June spill and the December spill. CPL settled with the
Homeowners in one lump sum. In the meantime, CPL filed a
counterclaim against RMP alleging negligence, trespass,
private nuisance, and violation of the federal Oil Pollution
Act (OPA). Among other damages, CPL seeks reimbursement of
some, if not all, of the settlement money on the theory that
RMP tortious actions caused the Homeowners' damages.
moves for partial summary judgment on CPL's claim for
reimbursement, asserting that CPL's request is a claim
for contribution, which is barred by the Utah Liability
Reform Act (ULRA), Utah Code Ann. § 78B-5-820.
must grant summary judgment when the moving party
“shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any
material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a
matter of law.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a).
contends that RMP's request for partial summary judgment
on certain damages arising under separate causes of action is
procedurally improper. The court disagrees.
plain language of Rule 56 allows a court to grant partial
summary judgment on a portion of a claim. “A party may
move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or
defense-or the part of each claim or defense-on
which summary judgment is sought.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(a)
(emphasis added); see also Fed.R.Civ.P. 56(g)
(authorizing a court to grant partial relief on “an
item of damages . . . that is not genuinely in
dispute”); Hamblin v. British Airways PLC, 717
F.Supp.2d 303, 307 (E.D.N.Y. 2010) (“[T]he word
‘claim' in Rule 56 is not limited to the theory of
liability that a plaintiff asserts. A theory of liability is
useless to a plaintiff without remedies flowing from that
claim[.]”). Accordingly, RMP's motion for partial
summary judgment on the narrow and discrete damage issue is
proper under Rule 56.
Liability Reform Act
to the ULRA, RMP contends that CPL may not recover the
settlement money paid to the Homeowners.
ULRA abolished contribution claims.
“‘Contribution' is a method for tortfeasors
forced to pay damages greater than their proportion of fault
to recover from other joint tortfeasors in a separate
action.” Nat'l Servs. Indus., Inc. v. B.W.
Norton Mfg. Co., 937 P.2d 551, 554 (Utah Ct. App. 1997).
Under the plain language of the ULRA, “[a] defendant is
not entitled to contribution from any other person.”
Utah Code Ann. § 78B-5-820(2); see also Sanns v.
Butterfield Ford, 94 P.3d 301, 307 (Utah Ct. App. 2004)
(with the passage of the ULRA, “fault can no longer be
apportioned to one defendant with the idea that it may later
seek indemnification or contribution from another.”).
Instead, the ULRA applies the comparative fault doctrine
under which a joint tortfeasor pays only an ...