Looking Back to Move Forward: Resolving Health & Environmental Crises

In November 2020, as the culmination of the Health & Environmental Settlements Project, the New York University (NYU) School of Law’s State Energy & Environmental Impact Center (State Impact Center) in partnership with the Environmental Law Institute released Looking Back to Move Forward: Resolving Health & Environmental Crises. Detailing how seven major health and environmental liability and compensation crises were resolved, leading experts provide a rich source of insights that should inform and guide how the courts and Congress respond to future health and environmental crises—including crises that already are on our doorstep, such as the opioid and climate crises.

The Health & Environmental Settlements Project

The State Impact Center launched the Health & Environmental Settlements Project to evaluate mechanisms that have been used by state attorneys general, the U.S. Congress, and others to address and resolve the toughest large-scale health and environmental liability and compensation challenges over the last fifty years.

The goal of the Project is to provide a comprehensive, independent analysis of prior judicial and legislative settlement structures, including an evaluation of settlement approaches that, with the advantage of hindsight, worked well and achieved their purposes, and those that did not.

The Project involved two phases: a workshop that kicked off the project in March 2019 and the November 2020 release of Looking Back to Move Forward: Resolving Health & Environmental Crises, a book that examines how major health and environmental crises have been resolved in the past, and the learnings that we should take away from that history.

Workshop

In March 2019, the State Impact Center launched the Settlements Project by holding a workshop at the NYU School of Law on four major health and environmental settlements. The workshop helped inform the development of Looking Back to Move Forward with expert panel reviews of four major health and environmental settlements:

  • The Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement
  • The Gulf Oil Spill Settlement
  • The Superfund Legislative Settlement
  • The Volkswagen Emissions Settlement

The workshop also featured keynote remarks by Kenneth Feinberg, a nationally-recognized expert in mediation and alternative dispute resolution, and a presentation by Dr. Cheryl Healton, Dean and Professor of the School of Global Public Health and the Director of the Global Institute of Public Health at NYU. Based on rich discussions at the workshop, a book was commissioned that would address the four major crises covered in the workshop, and three additional instructive case examples involving the DES Daughters, the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act, and the asbestos health crisis.

Looking Back to Move Forward: Resolving Health & Environmental Crises

Looking Back to Move Forward: Resolving Health & Environmental Crises was released in November 2020. The full book is available here.

The book includes eight chapters written by leading legal practitioners and policy experts:

  • Chapter 1: Synthesizing Lessons Learned From Seven Major Crises by David J. Hayes

Section I: Health Crises

  • Chapter 2: Diethylstilbestrol and the Birth of Market-Share Liability by Logan L. Page
  • Chapter 3: A Complex Achievement: the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement by Joelle M. Lester & Kerry Cork
  • Chapter 4: Response to Vaccine Immunity: The National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act and Its Consequences by Hampden T. Macbeth
  • Chapter 5: Courts as Policymakers: The Uneven Justice of Asbestos Mass Tort Litigation by Sandra Nichols Thiam, Carol Adaire Jones, Cynthia R. Harris, & Samuel F. Koenig

Section II: Environmental Crises

  • Chapter 6: Superfund at 40: Unfulfilled Expectations by Katherine N. Probst
  • Chapter 7: Deepwater Horizon by Elizabeth Klein
  • Chapter 8: The Volkswagen “Dieselgate” Clean Air Act Settlement by John C. Cruden & Joshua H. Van Eaton