December 11, 2023

Environmental contamination is a complex issue with severe consequences for businesses and individuals. One of the critical questions that arise in contamination cases is who is responsible for the damage caused. 

It is known as environmental liability and an important legal concept to understand. It will be ideal for you to know the different types of environmental liability, including strict liability, joint and several liability, and several liabilities. 

By being aware of such factors, you will better understand the legal framework surrounding environmental liability and the importance of responsible environmental management. You can also contact a Fitzpatrick, Skemp & Butler, LLC professional to know more about the latter. 

Understanding the liability for contamination concerning environmental liability: 

  • Strict liability

Strict liability is a legal principle that holds parties responsible for any damage they cause, regardless of their intent or negligence. In environmental liability, those who cause contamination may be held strictly liable for any harm. 

It means they can be held responsible for damages even if they did not intend to cause harm or take adequate precautions to prevent it. Strict liability is often used to ensure that those who engage in activities with a high risk of harm are held accountable for any resulting damage.

  • Joint and several liabilities

Joint and several liabilities is a legal principle that allows multiple parties to be held responsible for the same harm. In environmental liability, parties contributing to contamination may be held jointly and severally liable for the damages. 

It means that each party can be held responsible for the entire damage, even if they only contributed a small portion of the contamination. Joint and several liabilities are often used to ensure that those contributing to environmental harm are held accountable and that remediation costs are fairly apportioned.

  • Individuals causing contamination 

Individuals can also be held responsible for environmental contamination if they knowingly or unknowingly cause it. For example, homeowners who misuse pesticides or chemicals may be liable for any resulting harm. 

Individuals may also be held responsible for illegally dumping hazardous waste or other environmental violations. Determining liability for individuals can be complex and may involve assessing the extent of the harm caused and identifying any negligence or intentional misconduct.

What should you do to determine liability for environmental contamination?

Determining liability for environmental contamination can be a complex process that often requires input from environmental experts, lawyers, and regulatory agencies. To determine liability, a thorough investigation of the contaminated site is usually required, including sampling and analysis of soil, water, and air. 

The investigation may also involve interviews with the parties involved and a review of relevant documents. Once liability is established, remediation efforts can begin, and parties responsible may be held accountable for damages and must pay for cleanup costs.