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Mar 25, 2020
To the extent that litigation makes a muddle of private-party ordering, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act has created more messes than it has cleaned up. Congress enacted the Act to clean up hazardous waste spills. The litigious explosion that resulted, however, caused widespread and pervasive private sector disarray. Private parties rely on settlement to extricate themselves from litigation under the Act, but their attorneys will agree that planning a strategy to settle multi-party litigation is “difficult under the best of circumstances.” At the heart of this difficulty is uncertainty. One source of uncertainty is the choice of rule to apply to measure the effect of a settlement on the potential liability of nonsettling defendants. This is the partial settlement credit issue.
In AmeriPride Services, Inc. v. Texas Eastern Overseas, Inc., the Ninth Circuit ruled on the partial settlement credit issue and left the choice of rule to the district courts. Private-party representatives viewed the AmeriPride decision as a missed opportunity to provide certainty to beleaguered litigants. This Note will argue that AmeriPride was decided properly, and that a partial settlement credit rule would be an ineffective tool for providing certainty to private-party litigants. The Note considers the choice between rules and rulelessness, and concludes that, for determining the effect of partial settlements in private-party litigation under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, no rule is the best rule.