Who's Picking up the Tab: Recoupment for Contamination Damages under New York Navigation Law


PUBLISHED ON: August 24, 2022

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As the effects of climate change continue to alter our environmental landscape, contamination and its subsequent cleanup often make front page news. Less often discussed are the legal schemes involved in those cleanups, including how the costs of undertaking them are paid.  A party held responsible for cleanup costs may look to recoup some of its financial outlay from other parties, whether through an indemnity agreement or insurance.  While contractual recoupment should be an option regardless of jurisdiction, New York Navigation Law adds additional potential routes to recovery via statute.

Article 12 of New York Navigation Law is meant to address some of these issues stemming from environmental contamination by ensuring the swift and effective remediation of oil spills that threaten the environment and our fragile relationship with nature.  It imposes strict liability – meaning liability regardless of fault – on any party deemed responsible for the discharge of oil.  A so-called “responsible party” can be held liable for all costs necessary for cleanup and removal of the environmental contamination.  But what happens when more than one party is potentially at fault?

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