CERCLA Actions and Statute of Limitations: Navigating the Circuit Split, Lessons From Recent Decisions

Practical Implications for Whether Judicially Approved Settlement Requires Resolution of CERCLA Liability

Recording of a 90-minute CLE webinar with Q&A

Conducted on Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Recorded event now available

or call 1-800-926-7926
Course Materials

This CLE course will guide counsel on the application of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) statute of limitations and explain when settlements trigger the statute. The panel will examine recent decisions, analyze a federal circuit split, and offer best practices for managing timing issues in Superfund and environmental litigation.


CERCLA continues to evolve as court interpretations vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Plaintiffs and defendants must navigate a growing and conflicting body of law regarding the statute of limitations.

The Second Circuit held a judicially approved settlement of environmental liabilities does not trigger the statute of limitations on a CERCLA contribution claim. In the Third Circuit, a judicially approved settlement of state law claims can give rise to a CERCLA contribution action, and thereby trigger the three-year statute of limitations on that claim.

The Ninth Circuit added to the growing body of case law in Asarco v. Atlantic Richfield (9th Cir. 2017), concluding a non-CERCLA settlement agreement can meet the resolving liability requirement for a CERCLA Section 113 contribution claim, but the language of the 1998 RCRA consent decree that required Asarco to undertake response actions was not sufficient to resolve it’s liability. In 2016, the court also discussed the statute of limitations issue in Whittaker Corp. v. United States (9th Cir. 2016).

Many federal circuit courts have not addressed when settlements trigger the statute of limitations for CERCLA actions. Environmental counsel must prepare to face statute of limitations challenges.

Listen as our authoritative panel of environmental attorneys examines the circuit split on the issue of the statute of limitations for CERCLA actions. The panel will discuss the two private rights of action under CERCLA and the practical implications of how the courts are ruling. The panel will also offer best practices for addressing the issue and avoiding statute of limitations problems.



  1. CERCLA actions and statute of limitations
    1. Contribution
    2. Cost recovery
  2. Circuit split on the statute of limitations and its implications
  3. Best practices for addressing and avoiding statute of limitations issues


The panel will review these and other key issues:

  • How are the federal courts addressing when a settlement triggers the statute of limitations?
  • What should counsel consider in deciding when to file a contribution claim?
  • What are best practices for counsel to reduce CERCLA liability early in the litigation?


Murphy, Michael
Michael K. Murphy

Gibson Dunn & Crutcher

Mr. Murphy handles a wide variety of cases under most federal and a number of state environmental statutes, and has...  |  Read More

Smith, Christopher
Christopher (Smitty) Smith
Steptoe & Johnson

Mr. Smith practices regulatory compliance and litigation as it relates to environmental matters. He concentrates on...  |  Read More

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Strafford will process CLE credit for one person on each recording. All formats include course handouts.

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