On Remand, Court Doubts Government Acted with Discretion in Stalled Alaska Cleanup
In September 2020, I wrote a Litigation Blog post about the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Nanouk v. United States, 974 F.3d 941 (9th Cir. 2020), which considered whether the so-called discretionary function exception barred tort claims against the government in connection with its lengthy, haphazard cleanup of a PCB hotspot near a Cold War-era military installation in Alaska. As I explained in that article, the exception bars tort claims that are based on discretionary government conduct—often following a policy-based analysis—but not claims that are based on simple negligence by government officials. Because cleanup protocols for such bases were generally grounded in economic and national security policy, the Ninth Circuit held the exception barred all claims asserted by the plaintiff, whose adjacent land was impacted by the PCBs, except one claim: that after deciding to undertake the cleanup in 1990, the government simply failed to do it for 13 years. The Court remanded that issue, instructing the government to proffer evidence showing that the delay in effectuating the cleanup was likewise policy based. On remand, the trial court addressed this issue in denying without prejudice the United States' Motion to Dismiss. Nanouk v. United States, Case No. 3:15-cv-00221-RRB (Mar. 15, 2023).
Read the full blog post.