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An Unprecedented Year: SCOTUS’ 2020 Environmental Decisions and the Implications for Insurance

(85 reviews)

Produced on December 18, 2020

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Course Information

Time 1h 2m
Difficulty Intermediate
Topics covered in this course: Insurance Environmental

Course Description

In 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court issued two notable environmental decisions, County of Maui, Hawaii v. Hawaii Wildlife Fund, and Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian, each raising new questions for environmental litigators and insurers.

In Maui, the Court held that the Clean Water Act requires a permit if the addition of pollutants through groundwater is the “functional equivalent” of a direct discharge from the point source into navigable waters. In Atlantic Richfield, the Court held that landowners were allowed to seek restoration damages in state court – beyond the remediation required under the federal Superfund law -- but only if the landowners first obtained approval from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for the additional work.

In this course, Jillian Kirn and Kaitlyn Maxwell of Greenberg Traurig LLP will be joined by David Schechter of the Beazley Group to discuss questions such as: (1) how will insurers take these decisions into account when handling claims and underwriting policies at new sites or existing cleanups; (2) what might the new bench and Administration mean for additional litigation on the same issues; (3) how could lower courts’ decisions on insurance coverage in environmental disaster and extreme weather events impact the insurance landscape; and (4) what are some practical ways that parties can take these decisions into account before binding a policy?

Learning Objectives:

  1. Analyze the impact of the Supreme Court’s major environmental law decisions in 2020, with a particular focus on environmental litigators and insurers

  2. Explore how the new composition of the Court might affect future litigation

  3. Determine how lower courts decisions on insurance coverage in environmental disaster and extreme weather events impact the insurance landscape

Credit Information

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Jillian C. Kirn

Greenberg Traurig, LLP

Jillian C. Kirn focuses her practice on complex environmental and energy litigation, regulatory compliance counseling, and resolution of environmental liabilities identified in the course of transactions. She has wide-ranging experience representing clients in litigation in state and federal courts and works on behalf of developers and corporations in connection with the acquisition, sale, and financing of contaminated real estate, including environmental liability transfers. Jillian routinely assists clients with risk management matters in the context of proposed project redevelopments, renewable energy securities transactions, and legacy remedial liabilities at industrial sites.

Prior to joining the firm, Jillian handled air, waste, and toxics enforcement matters in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Regional Counsel in Seattle, Washington.

Awards & Accolades

  • Listed, Euromoney, Rising Stars, “Rising Star - Americas,” 2020
  • Listed, Law360, "Rising Stars," Environmental, 2020
  • Listed, The Best Lawyers in America, "Ones to Watch," Environmental Law, 2021
  • Listed, Super Lawyers magazine, Pennsylvania Super Lawyers, "Rising Stars," 2017-2020
  • Listed, The Legal 500 United States, "Dispute Resolution - Product Liability, Mass Tort and Class Action - Defense: Toxic Tort," 2020

Kaitlyn Maxwell

Greenberg Traurig, LLP

Kaitlyn R. Maxwell focuses her practice on environmental litigation. She advises clients on regulatory compliance issues and represents clients in litigation in state and federal courts. Her work includes litigation of major contamination cases under the hazardous waste and Superfund laws. Kaitlyn also advises clients in transactions involving the sale of contaminated real property.


  • Air, water and waste regulation

  • Superfund and contamination

  • Contaminated real property cost recovery

  • Commercial and regulatory litigation

  • Environmental remediation projects


  • J.D., Boston University School of Law, 2012

  • Article Editor, Public Interest Law Journal

  • Vice President, Environmental & Energy Law Society

  • B.A., magna cum laude, Dickinson College, 2007

  • Phi Beta Kappa


  • Pennsylvania

  • New Jersey

  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

  • U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin

  • U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York

  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

David Schechter


David Schechter is Beazley’s Focus Group Leader for Environmental Claims. Before joining Beazley in May 2020, David was a member of AIG’s environmental claims team for over 12 years, serving in various capacities.  David also has experience practicing law as a commercial litigator for a large New Jersey law firm. David is a graduate of Benjamin N. Cardozo Law School and Rutgers University.


Paula J.

Nice overview of a fairly complicated set of legal issues. Also, the interactions/conversations between presenters was effective and helpful to address some of the nuances in the decisions and what remains unknown.

Tamika S.

Great overview! Appreciated the concise and insightful presenters.

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