Calm Waters After Guam v. United States?
The U.S. Supreme Court holds that resolving liability under CERCLA means exactly that, and nothing more.
On May 24, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its unanimous decision in Guam v. United States, 141 S. Ct. 1608 (2021), yet another key case in a line of decisions interpreting the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) and, in particular, the interplay between section 107(a) and section 113(f)(3). The Court cleared up some of the murkiness between the two types of claims, holding that consent decrees and administrative orders between the United States and potentially responsible parties (PRPs) that do not expressly resolve liability CERCLA liability do not give rise to a contribution claim under section 113(f)(3). As a result, actions to recover amounts spent for expensive remediations under non-CERCLA settlements are no longer subject to a short three-year statute of limitations but instead can now take advantage of the much longer timeframes for cost recovery claims under section 107(a).
Read Schiller's full article featured in ABA SEER's Trends January/February 2022 issue.