United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division
CARLTON W. REEVES UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
the Court are the following motions: (1) a motion in limine
filed by Nature's Way Marine, LLC and Environmental
Pollution Group, LLC; (2) a motion for summary judgment filed
by the same parties; and (3) a motion for partial summary
judgment filed by the United States. The matters are fully
briefed and ready for adjudication.
Factual and Procedural History
January 27, 2013, a tug operated by Nature's Way Marine
was pushing two barges of sweet crude oil down the
Mississippi River. As the tug maneuvered near Vicksburg,
Mississippi, one of the barges struck a bridge and discharged
more than 7, 100 gallons of oil. Nature's Way spent $2.99
million on the ensuing cleanup, while various governmental
entities spent at least $792, 868.98 on the same.
September 2013, barge owner Third Coast Towing sued
Nature's Way for breach of maritime contract and maritime
tort. The case settled in late 2014.
January 2016, the United States filed the present action. It
claimed that Nature's Way, Third Coast, and Great
American Insurance Company were liable under the Clean Water
Act and the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (“OPA”) for
oil spill removal costs and civil penalties.
Way and insurer Environmental Pollution Group (collectively,
“Nature's Way”) counterclaimed against the
United States under the Administrative Procedure Act
(“APA”). They asserted that the federal
government-via the U.S. Coast Guard's National Pollution
Funds Center-should have reimbursed most of Nature's Way
cleanup expenses using money from the federal
government's oil spill trust fund.
United States now seeks confirmation that Nature's Way is
not entitled to any reimbursement from the oil spill trust
fund. Nature's Way, meanwhile, wants to set
aside the Coast Guard's determination and be awarded
reimbursement of all but $854, 000 of its cleanup costs.
Nature's Way has also moved to strike parts of the
judgment is appropriate when “the movant shows that
there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the
movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”
the ordinary summary judgment standard, a party seeking to
avoid judgment must identify admissible evidence in the
record showing a fact dispute. Id. at 56(c)(1).
“Once a summary judgment motion is made and properly
supported, the nonmovant must go beyond the pleadings and
designate specific facts in the record showing that there is
a genuine issue for trial. Neither ‘conclusory
allegations' nor ‘unsubstantiated assertions'
will satisfy the nonmovant's burden.” Wallace
v. Tex. Tech Univ., 80 F.3d 1042, 1047 (5th Cir. 1996)
(quotation marks and citations omitted). The Court views the
evidence and draws reasonable inferences in the light most
favorable to the nonmovant. Maddox v. Townsend and Sons,
Inc., 639 F.3d 214, 216 (5th Cir. 2011). But the Court
will not, “in the absence of any proof, assume that the
nonmoving party could or would prove the necessary
facts.” McCallum Highlands, Ltd. v. Wash. Capital
Dus, Inc., 66 F.3d 89, 92 (5th Cir. 1995), as
revised on denial of reh'g, 70 F.3d 26 (5th Cir.
standard of review is somewhat different:
The Administrative Procedure Act (“APA”) allows a
federal court to overturn an agency's ruling only if it
is arbitrary, capricious, an abuse of discretion, not in
accordance with law, or unsupported by substantial evidence
on the record taken as a whole. The court starts from a
presumption that the agency's decision is valid, and the
plaintiff has the burden to overcome that presumption by
showing that the decision was erroneous. The agency's
factual findings are reviewed to determine only whether they
are supported by substantial evidence. The agency's legal
conclusions are reviewed de novo, except for
questions of statutory interpretation, where the court owes
substantial deference to an agency's construction of a
statute that it administers. Review is highly deferential to
the administrative agency whose final decision is being
Buffalo Marine Servs. Inc. v. United States, 663
F.3d 750, 753-54 (5th Cir. 2011) (quotation marks and