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Private Settlement of Superfund Site Cleanup Costs
Controlled by Uniform Comparative Fault Act
Description Parties that were liable for remediation of Superfund site negotiated a settlement. Party with the most at stake requested application of the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act rejected as creating improper and unfair incentives compared to the Uniform Comparative Fault Act.
Topic Environmental Law
Key Words CERCLA, Uniform Comparative Fault Act, Contributions
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts Multiple parties were involved in a proposed settlement to determine potential contributions to the remediation of a Superfund site. Parties contested whether the consent decree would be based on a contribution rule under the Uniform Comparative Fault Act (UCFA) or the Uniform Contribution Among Tortfeasors Act (UCATA). The rules would have different impacts on different contributors to the site.
Decision UCFA "reduces a non-settlor's liability by the amount of the settlor's equitable share of the obligation." Under the UCATA, "the liability of non-settling defendants is reduced by the amount specified in the settlement agreement...When the government reaches a settlement in a CERCLA action, it does not bear the risk that it settled for too little with one party, because under the UCATA, it may still pursue the non-settling parties for the remainder." This is consistent with the joint and several liability standards of CERCLA. But this case is a settlement among private parties only, so UCFA applies. It is the most fair and efficient rule as it discourages parties with the most liability from dragging out negotiations to put off payment day.
Citation New York v. Solvent Chemical Co ---F.Supp.--- (1997 WL 698256, W.D. NY)
984 F.Supp. 160 (W.D., N.Y., 1997)

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