In United States v. Ekco Housewares, Inc., 62 F.3d 806 (6th Cir. 1995), the United States brought an action against the operator of a hazardous waste disposal facility for failing to comply with regulatory financial responsibility requirements under the Resource, Conservation and Recovery Act, 42. U.S.C. §§ 6901-6987. The federal court assessed a civil penalty of $ 4,606,000 against the operator, who appealed.
In the Sixth Circuit, Ekco argued, among other things, that "the court abused its discretion in imposing a penalty significantly higher than penalties imposed against other owners/operators for similar violations." Ekco, 62 F.3d at 816.
The Sixth Circuit recognized that "penalties imposed in other cases are indeed relevant," but noted that "the reasonableness of a penalty ... is a fact-driven question, one that turns on the circumstances and events peculiar to the case at hand." Id.
Moreover, the court found that "the decisions relied upon by Ekco do not provide meaningful guidance." Id. Accordingly, it rejected Ekco's claim that the lower court abused its discretion in assessing the penalty.