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United States v. Bestfoods


Stephen L. Kass and Jean M. McCarroll, who published several pieces in the New York Law Journal regarding the liability of corporate parents under CERCLA, wrote that the Court's decision in Bestfoods had "brought some precision and balance to the task of determining under what circumstances a corporate parent may be charged with liability as an operator of its subsidiary's polluting facility." But to Peter M. Gillon, who presented a critique of the case in Toxics Law Reporter, the ruling "represents a valiant, although not altogether successful, attempt to provide . . . clarity" regarding questions of liability. In Gillon's view, the Court's inability to draw bright lines regarding corporate liability leaves corporations in a position of unnecessary uncertainty. Even Kass and McCarroll, while taking a more positive view of the ruling in terms of the direction it provides for future decisions, concluded that "some murky areas remain." Nonetheless, they hailed the Bestfoods decision for offering a distinction between the tests of direct and derivative liability, and for "its sensible and proper deference to the fact-finding role of the trial court." Kass and McCarroll on the one hand, and Gillon on the other, do seem to agree on one general principle: that the Bestfoods decision can be best understood as an attempt to define, rather than to conclude, questions regarding the corporate parent's liability in hazardous waste cleanups or other situations.

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Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1995 to PresentUnited States v. Bestfoods - Significance, Don't Drink The Water, Shifting The Burden To The Responsible Parties, A Question Of Parenthood