In Johnson v. James Langley Operating Co., the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit held that plaintiffs, in order to impose liability on defendants, need not show that they incurred response costs by acting to contain a release that threatened public health or the environment. By rejecting the Fifth Circuit’s holding in Amoco Oil Co. v. Borden, Inc., the court created a circuit split. This Note argues that the Eighth Circuit’s liberal interpretation of the plain language of CERCLA furthers the goals of the statute more than the Fifth Circuit’s narrow interpretation. This Note also argues that because the Johnson court did not address the fact that the plaintiffs did not incur response costs until after the commencement of their lawsuit, the Eighth Circuit opened the door for landowners to seek recovery of response costs from potentially responsible parties when such landowners have not yet incurred such costs.

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