Fifth Circuit Confirms Right to Jury Trial Under the Oil Pollution Act
In United States v. ERR, LLC, No. 21-30028 (5th Cir. May 26, 2022), the Fifth Circuit ruled that the Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a jury trial for defendants facing subrogation and recoupment claims under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (the “OPA”). In 2015, ERR was found responsible for an oil spill originating from a wastewater treatment center that it owned and operated on the banks of the Mississippi River. In 2017, the United States sued ERR under the OPA for removal costs it had paid from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (the “Fund”) to Oil Mop LLC, a spill-response service provider. ERR demanded a jury trial, which the district court denied, finding that the relief provided for in the OPA was in the nature of equitable restitution, so its claims sounded in equity, not in law. However, the Fifth Circuit overturned that decision, holding that such claims were legal in nature and therefore provide ERR the right to a jury trial.
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