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CTS Corp. v. Waldburger

Summarized by: 

Date Filed: June 9, 2014
Case #: 13-339
Kennedy, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part II-D. Sotomayor and Kagan, JJ., joined that opinion in full, and Roberts, C. J., and Scalia, Thomas, and Alito, JJ., joined as to all but Part II-D. Scalia, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, in which Roberts, C. J., and Thomas and Alito, JJ., joined. Ginsburg, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer, J., joined.
Full Text Opinion: http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/13pdf/13-339_886a.pdf

Civil Procedure: Section 9658 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 preempts state statutes of limitations, but does not preempt state statutes of repose.

Petitioner owned and operated an electronics plant, which they sold in 1987. The land has since been developed. In 2009, Respondents discovered that the land was contaminated. In 2011, they brought suit alleging that the damage was due to Petitioner's previous land use.

Petitioner moved to dismiss on the grounds that the ten-year statute of repose had passed, barring any claims. The trial court agreed. However, on appeal the Fourth Circuit disagreed. They found that Section 9658 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) preempted state law and allowed the claim. That section of CERCLA allows courts to bypass state statutes of limitations in order to provide a cause of action for injuries that have long latency periods and may not manifest until after those statutes had run. The Court today reverses, holding that CERCLA preempts statutes of limitations, but does not preempt statutes of repose.

The Court bases today's holding on a textual analysis of Section 9658. Because the legal terms "statute of limitations" and "statute of repose" were in common use at the time Congress enacted the preemption, and the statute fails to mention statutes of repose, the preemption does not apply to them. The text also refers to the preempted period in the singular. If Congress had intended to preempt both limitations, it would have done so.