75 Brook. L. Rev. 409 (2009-2010)
Interpreting Intent: How Research on Folk Judgments of Intentionality Can Inform Statutory Analysis

handle is hein.journals/brklr75 and id is 413 raw text is: Interpreting Intent
Julia Kobick & Joshua Knobet
On May 4, 2009, the Supreme Court released its opinion
in Shell Oil Co. v. United States.' The case was not only an
important one in environmental law, but it also raised a
number of complex conceptual issues. In particular, the Court
found that it had to make a difficult decision about the
relationship between liability and intentionality.
The facts of the case were as follows: Shell Oil Co.
contracted to sell a hazardous pesticide to an independent
chemical distribution company Shell knew that some of the
pesticide would inevitably end up leaking or spilling as it was
being transferred into the distribution company's holding
tanks, but Shell was not actively trying to make the pesticide
leak Its goal was just to sell and transport the pesticide. In
other words, Shell had the knowledge that its actions would be
leading to pesticide leaks, but its purpose was not to create
these leaks, but rather to sell a useful product. Predictably, the
dangerous pesticide regularly leaked during transfer, leading
to  extensive  soil and   groundwater    contamination.' The
Environmental Protection Agency spent $8 million cleaning up
the environmental damage and sued the parties connected to
the environmental harm, including Shell, for remediation
t Julia Kobick, J.D. Candidate, Harvard Law School. Joshua Knobe,
Assistant Professor, Program in Cognitive Science and Department of Philosophy, Yale
University. Thanks to Richard Lazarus, Fiery Cushman, Adam Kolber and Neal
Feigenson for their insightful comments.
1 Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. v. United States (Shell Oil Co.), 129 S. Ct.
1870 (2009).
2 Id. at 1874-75.
3 See id. at 1875.
4 Id.
5 Id. at 1876.


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