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Supreme Court Holds That CERCLA Preemption Is Inapplicable to Statutes of Repose

06/12/2014

The Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA), preempts statutes of limitations applicable to state-law tort actions for personal injury or property damage in certain circumstances. §9658 of CERCLA applies to statutes of limitations governing actions for personal injury or property damage arising from the release of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant into the environment. The preemption creates a discovery rule to be used in determining the accrual date of any state cause of action arising from the release of contamination where state law does not provide a discovery rule. §9658 was adopted out of a Congressional concern for diseases or harms with long latency periods.

 

CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, decided June 9, 2014, addresses whether §9658 likewise preempts statutes of repose. CTS Corporation and a subsidiary operated an electronics plant in Asheville, North Carolina from 1959 to 1985. Trichloroethylene (TCE) and cis-1, 2-dichloroethane (DCE) were used on site. In 1987, CTS sold the property. The buyer eventually sold portions of the property to individuals who, along with adjacent landowners, brought suit alleging damage from contaminants released on the land.

 

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