Ninth Circuit Defines When "Ownership" is Determined for Cost Recovery Purposes

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According to the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, ownership for purposes of cleanup liability under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act ("CERCLA," also known as the "Superfund" law) is determined at the time that cleanup costs are incurred and not when a later cost recovery lawsuit is filed. Although CERCLA is 30 years old and has been amended several times, this is the first time that any court has directly addressed the question of when an owner is liable for cleanup costs, clarifying what had been one of many murky areas in CERCLA.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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