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Status of Joint and Several Liability Under CERCLA After Bell Petroleum

May 1994

Citation: ELR 10250

Author: Mehron Azarmehr

In the fall of 1993, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in its opinion in In re Bell Petroleum Services, Inc., articulated its standard for determining joint and several liability under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA). In so doing, it joined the ranks of four other circuit courts that have spoken on this issue.

Bell Petroleum was brought as a CERCLA cost recovery action by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Fifth Circuit held that the district court had erred in imposing joint and several liability on defendant Sequa Corporation, since Sequa had met its burden of proving a reasonable basis for apportioning liability between itself and other defendants who had owned and operated the site. Therefore, the court remanded the case to the district court for apportionment.