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Strafford CLE Webinar: Arguing Apportionment Versus Allocation in CERCLA Litigation in Federal Court

Posted on August 31, 2023

Strafford CLE Webinar

Arguing Apportionment Versus Allocation in CERCLA Litigation in Federal Court

Presenters: William S. Hatfield of Gibbons & Adam H. Love, PhD of Roux 

Thursday, September 7 at 1-2:30pm EST

This CLE course will discuss how recent court decisions have addressed the strategy of pursuing divisibility and apportionment versus an equitable allocation in CERCLA litigation. Hosted by Strafford, this 90-minute webinar is eligible in most states for 1.5 CLE Credits.

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Railway Co. v. U.S. ruling on divisibility under CERCLA led to optimism on the use of this defense to joint and several liability. However, there is no bright-line test for determining divisibility, and several recent court decisions have shown that defining and distinguishing harm at a site may continue to be difficult.

In court decisions involving the Fox River in Wisconsin, the Upper Columbia River in Washington state, and from Rhode Island and South Carolina, judges and parties wrestle with the threshold question for divisibility: is the harm “theoretically capable of apportionment”?

Divisibility is a potential defense to joint and several liability under CERCLA that divides the harm caused by each party (apportionment), so if the court’s answer to this question is “yes,” then the party seeking to limit its liability may succeed. In contrast, equitable allocation is designed to assign relative responsibility among liable parties to arrive at a “fair share”—without strict divisibility of the harm among the parties. In a cost recovery suit, if the divisibility defense is not available, then a party may be found jointly and severally liable and must bring contribution claims to shift responsibility to others under an equitable allocation approach.

Listen as the panel examines the Burlington Northern decision and its progeny concerning divisibility and apportionment versus equitable allocation. The panel will also review recent cases addressing this legal theory and offer practice pointers on which circumstances lend themselves to a divisibility defense, the main technical approaches available, and options on how to present this defense.

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Roux Associates

Webinar Presenters

William S. HatfieldWilliam S. Hatfield
Director, Environmental

Adam H. Love, PhDAdam H. Love, PhD
Vice President/Principal Scientist