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US Supreme Court Holds That CERCLA Does Not Preempt State Statutes of Repose


The Supreme Court of the United States found today that § 9658 of CERCLA (a/k/a Superfund) does not preempt state statutes of repose. 42 U.S.C. § 9658 provides that in any action brought under state law for injury or damages caused by exposure to any hazardous substance, the applicable “limitations period for such action” should commence at the federally required commencement date in lieu of the state statute of limitations, i.e., the state statute of limitation is preempted. In CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, et al. Decision, No. 13-339 (decided June 9, 2014), the Supreme Court decided that the text of § 9658 applies only to state statutes of limitations, and not statutes of repose. As a result, a state statute of repose that prevented subjecting a defendant to a tort suit brought more than ten years after the defendant’s last culpable act survived preemption preventing a lawsuit against CTS for contamination of property it sold 24 years before suit was filed. The Court found that because statutes of repose, as opposed to the distinct concept of statutes of limitations, were not specifically addressed in § 9658, it was proper to conclude that Congress did not intend to preempt state statutes of repose.


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