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E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Co. v. Stanton

Price-Anderson Act: Government Contractor Defense

During World War II, DuPont contracted with the federal government to run its Hanford plutonium-production facility, which produced the plutonuim used for the atomic bomb dropped on Nagasaki. A by-product of the production process is the emission of radioiodine, which can cause serious medical problems in humans, particularly in the thyroid. After the government released a report outlining the extent of the radioiodine emissions, individuals who had been living in the vicinity of the Hanford facility and who had suffered medical problems brought this suit. The questions presented were:

  1. Whether the Ninth Circuit erred by holding that the federal common law government-contractor defense does not apply as a matter of law to claims under the Price-Anderson Act (PAA), which provides the exclusive cause of action for all injuries allegedly caused by nuclear emissions.
  2. Whether Ninth Circuit erred by holding that petitioners may be held strictly liable under the Price-Anderson Act for federally authorized nuclear emissions.
  3. Whether the Ninth Circuit erred, and deepened an acknowledged circuit split, by holding that a putative class member who files an individual lawsuit while a motion for class certification is pending is nonetheless entitled to class action tolling.

Bonnie Robin-Vergeer and Brian Wolfman of Public Citizen were co-counsel for the respondents at the cert stage, and the Supreme Court denied cert.