In 1986, the Comprehensive Environmental Response Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) was amended to include, among other things, a provision for nationwide service of process. This provision greatly increased the choice of federal forums in which to sue defendants in CERCLA cases. In Chatham v. Brown, the court broke from this line of thinking and analyzed the case using a traditional constitutional Due Process analysis. Although the Chatham court ultimately held that it had personal jurisdiction over the defendants, the analysis it used may be a harbinger of things to come. That is to say, the constitutional analysis in Chatham could easily be used to restrict the exercise of personal jurisdiction in CERCLA cases. This note analyzes the basis of the court's reasoning, the gaps in the court's logic, and the implications of the decision for future CERCLA cases. Section I explains the facts of the Chatham case. Section II discusses CERCLA by first giving an overview of the statute's liability scheme and then specifically applying CERCLA liability to the Chatham case. Section III analyzes jurisdiction by offering a brief overview of the law and applying that law to Chatham. Section IV concludes by forecasting the potential ramifications of the Chatham case on future CERCLA cases.
Note, Hazardous Jurisdiction/Chatham Steel Corporation v. Brown: A Note on Personal Jurisdiction and CERCLA, 44 Clev. St. L. Rev. 473 (1996)