09 June 2014

Law in Plain English: CTS Corp. v. Waldburger

This is one in a series of posts designed to describe court decisions in plain English. For more detail and background on the legal issues, see the link to the case below. For similar posts, click here.

SCOTUSblogCTS Corp. v. Waldburger

Argument: Apr 23 2014 (Aud.)

CTS of Asheville Superfund site
Background: Waldburger and other landowners brought a nuisance action against CTS Corporation (CTS) when they discovered concentrated levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) and cis-1, 2-dichloroethane (DCE), both solvents that have carcinogenic effects, in their well water. The district court dismissed the suit, concluding that North Carolina's ten-year limitation on the accrual of real property claims was a statute of repose and thus barred the suit. The Fourth Circuit reversed, finding that Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA)'s provision aimed at preempting state statute of limitations also was meant to preempt state statutes of repose.

Issue: The question before the Court is whether the Fourth Circuit correctly interpreted the preemption provision of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. § 9658, to apply to state statutes of repose in addition to state statutes of limitations.

Holding: In a 7-2 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that § 9658 does not preempt state statutes of repose because the statute uses language consistent with statutes of limitations, but not statutes of repose. The majority concluded that Congress did not intend to preempt state statutes of repose. As a result, the original complaint would be dismissed consistent with the state's statute of repose.
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