Supreme Court rules that statutes of repose may bar state tort claims under CERCLA
On June 9, 2014, the United States Supreme Court, in CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, ruled that an individual state’s statute of repose is not preempted by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (“CERCLA”). Therefore, a state’s statute of repose may bar certain individual state tort claims for damages sustained after a particular number of years since the contaminating act. This decision will have a great impact in the five states with statutes of repose limiting environmental claims and likely will spur lobbying and legislation in other states to create such laws.
What You Need to Know
- Any state with a statute of repose that bars environmental claims past a certain date may limit state claims for damages arising out of contaminated land. Currently, only North Carolina, Connecticut, Kansas, Oregon and Alabama have statutes of repose that bar environmental claims.
- CERCLA allows a state’s statute of limitations to be tolled until a plaintiff discovers his or her injury. However, CERCLA does not permit a state’s statute of repose to be tolled; rather a state’s statute of repose is an absolute bar to bringing litigation after a certain number of years since the contaminating act.
- The court’s decision does not affect any federal claims, including claims under CERCLA, or any state claims in the 45 states without a statute of repose that limits state law claims.
- Be aware of lobbying and legislation efforts in your state regarding new statute of repose laws for environmental claims. State legislatures may be more receptive to passing statute of repose laws for environmental claims now that the Supreme Court has upheld such laws as valid.
For more information about this important development, please contact the authors.