Waldburger v. CTS Corp., No. 12–1290.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtFLOYD
Citation723 F.3d 434
PartiesPeter WALDBURGER; Sandra Ratcliffe; Lee Ann Smith; Tom Pinner, IV, a/k/a Bud Pinner, IV; Hans Momkes; Wilma Momkes; Walter Dockins, Jr.; Autumn Dockins; William Clark Lisenbee; Dan Murphy; Lori Murphy; Robert Aversano; Daniel L. Murphy; Laura A. Carson; Glen Horecky; Gina Horecky; Renee Richardson; David Bradley; Byron Hovey; Ramona Hovey; Peter Tatum MacQueen, IV; Bethan MacQueen; Patricia Pinner; Tom Pinner, III, a/k/a Buddy Pinner, III; Madeline Pinner, Plaintiffs–Appellants, v. CTS CORPORATION, Defendant–Appellee. United States of America, Amicus Supporting Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 12–1290.
Decision Date10 July 2013

723 F.3d 434

Peter WALDBURGER; Sandra Ratcliffe; Lee Ann Smith; Tom Pinner, IV, a/k/a Bud Pinner, IV; Hans Momkes; Wilma Momkes; Walter Dockins, Jr.; Autumn Dockins; William Clark Lisenbee; Dan Murphy; Lori Murphy; Robert Aversano; Daniel L. Murphy; Laura A. Carson; Glen Horecky; Gina Horecky; Renee Richardson; David Bradley; Byron Hovey; Ramona Hovey; Peter Tatum MacQueen, IV; Bethan MacQueen; Patricia Pinner; Tom Pinner, III, a/k/a Buddy Pinner, III; Madeline Pinner, Plaintiffs–Appellants,
v.
CTS CORPORATION, Defendant–Appellee.

United States of America, Amicus Supporting Appellee.

No. 12–1290.

United States Court of Appeals,
Fourth Circuit.

Argued: Jan. 30, 2013.
Decided: July 10, 2013.


[723 F.3d 437]


ARGUED: Emma A. Maddux, Third–Year Law Student, Wake Forest University, Winston–Salem, North Carolina, for Appellants.
Earl Thomison Holman, Adams, Hendon, Carson, Crow & Saenger, PA, Asheville, North Carolina, for Appellee. Daniel Tenny, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C., for Amicus Supporting Appellee. ON BRIEF:John J. Korzen, Director, Hillary M. Kies, Third–Year Law Student, Wake Forest University, Winston–Salem, North Carolina, for Appellants. Stuart F. Delery, Acting Assistant Attorney General, Thomas M. Bondy, United States Department of Justice, Washington, D.C.; Anne Tompkins, United States Attorney, Charlotte, North Carolina, for Amicus Supporting Appellee.

Before DAVIS, FLOYD, and THACKER, Circuit Judges.


Reversed and remanded by published opinion.
Judge FLOYD wrote the majority opinion, in which Judge DAVIS joined. Judge DAVIS wrote a separate concurring opinion. Judge THACKER wrote a dissenting opinion.

FLOYD, Circuit Judge:

In 2009, Appellants David Bradley and Renee Richardson received unwelcome news: Their well water contained concentrated levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) and cis–1, 2–dichloroethane (DCE), both solvents that have carcinogenic effects. Not surprisingly, Bradley and Richardson, and twenty-three other landowners (collectively, “the landowners”), brought a nuisance action against Appellee CTS Corporation (CTS), the alleged perpetrator. Concluding that North Carolina's ten-year limitation on the accrual of real property claims barred the suit, the district court granted CTS's Rule 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss. Having reviewed the dismissal de novo, assuming that the facts stated in the complaint are true, Lambeth v. Bd. of Commis., 407 F.3d 266, 268 (4th Cir.2005),

[723 F.3d 438]

we hold that the discovery rule articulated in § 9658 of the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Liability, and Compensation Act (CERCLA), 42 U.S.C. §§ 9601–9675, preempts North Carolina's ten-year limitation. Thus, we reverse and remand.

I.

In the 1960s and '70s, the United States witnessed the repercussions of toxic waste dumping like it never had before. The Valley of the Drums 1 and Love Canal 2 disasters made headlines, urging Congress to pass legislation that granted some measure of redress. In response, in 1980, Congress passed CERCLA, an act aimed at promoting efficient and equitable responses to the fallout from hazardous waste. Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. United States, 556 U.S. 599, 602, 129 S.Ct. 1870, 173 L.Ed.2d 812 (2009). Because Congress passed the legislation during the closing hours of its ninety-sixth session, and only after it reached a compromise reflecting the “blending of three separate bills,” CERCLA is often criticized for its lack of precision. See, e.g., State of New York v. Shore Realty Corp., 759 F.2d 1032, 1039–40 (2d Cir.1985) (“In 1980, while the Senate considered one early version of CERCLA, the House considered and passed another. The version passed by both Houses, however, was an eleventh hour compromise put together primarily by Senate leaders and sponsors of the earlier Senate versions.” (citations omitted)); Artesian Water Co. v. New Castle Cnty., 851 F.2d 643, 648 (3d Cir.1988) (“CERCLA is not a paradigm of clarity or precision. It has been criticized frequently for inartful drafting and numerous ambiguities attributable to its precipitous passage.”); see also Rhodes v. Cnty. of Darlington, 833 F.Supp. 1163, 1172–76 (D.S.C.1992) (providing a thorough recounting of CERCLA's history). Regardless, it remains undisputed that CERCLA is a remedial statute designed to (1) “establish a comprehensive response and financing mechanism to abate and control the vast problems associated with abandoned and inactive hazardous waste disposal sites” and (2) “shift the costs of cleanup to the parties responsible for the contamination.” Metro. Metropolitan Water Reclamation Dist. v. N. Am. Galvanizing & Coatings, Inc., 473 F.3d 824, 826–27 (7th Cir.2007) (quoting H.R.Rep. No. 96–1016, pt. 1, at 22 (1980), reprinted in 1980 U.S.C.C.A.N. 6119, 6120) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also Niagara Mohawk Power Corp. v. Chevron U.S.A., Inc., 596 F.3d 112, 120 (2d Cir.2010) (“Enacted in response to New York's Love Canal disaster, CERCLA was designed, in part, to ‘[ensure] that those responsible for any damage, environmental harm, or injury from chemical poisons bear the costs of their actions.’ ”) (footnote omitted) (quoting S.Rep. No. 96–848, at 13 (1980)).

Evidently wary about the effectiveness of the Act's final version, Congress immediately established a study group to examine the “adequacy of existing common law

[723 F.3d 439]

and statutory remedies in providing legal redress for harm ... caused by the release of hazardous substances into the environment.” 42 U.S.C. § 9651(e)(1). The Group consisted of twelve members designated by the American Bar Association, the American Trial Lawyers Association, the Association of State Attorneys General, and the American Law Institute. Id. § 9651(e)(2). Among other “[r]ecurring [i]ssues in [h]azardous [w]aste [l]itigation,” it considered the effect that state limitations periods have on causes of action related to hazardous waste, noting that (1) injuries from such waste generally have “long latency periods, sometimes 20 years or longer” and (2) if a state decrees that a cause of action will accrue upon a defendant's last act or a plaintiff's exposure to harm, the statute of limitations often will fully run and defeat a lawsuit before a plaintiff is aware of his injury. Superfund Section 301(e) Study Group, 97th Cong., Injuries and Damages from Hazardous Wastes–Analysis and Improvement of Legal Remedies pt. 1, at 28 (Comm. Print 1982). Purposing to “remove unreasonable procedural and other barriers to recovery in court ..., including rules relating to the time of accrual of actions,” id. at 240, the Group issued the following recommendation: “that all states ... clearly adopt the rule that an action accrues when the plaintiff discovers or should have discovered the injury or disease and its cause,” id. at 241. Worth noting is that the Group did not confine its concerns simply to statutes of limitation: “The Recommendation is intended also to cover the repeal of statutes of repose which, in a number of states have the same effect as some statutes of limitation in barring [a] plaintiff's claim before he knows that he has one.” Id.

Instead of waiting for individual states to amend their respective statutes, in 1986 Congress chose to “address[ ] the problem identified in the ... study,” H.R. Conf. Rep. No. 99–962, at 261, reprinted in 1986 U.S.C.C.A.N. 3276, 3354, by enacting § 9658 of CERCLA:

(a) State statutes of limitations for hazardous substance cases

(1) Exception to State statutes

In the case of any action brought under State law for personal injury, or property damages, which are caused or contributed to by exposure to any hazardous substance, or pollutant or contaminant, released into the environment from a facility, if the applicable limitations period for such action (as specified in the State statute of limitations or under common law) provides a commencement date which is earlier than the federally required commencement date, such period shall commence at the federally required commencement date in lieu of the date specified in such State statute.

(2) State law generally applicable

Except as provided in paragraph (1), the statute of limitations established under State law shall apply in all actions brought under State law for personal injury, or property damages, which are caused or contributed to by exposure to any hazardous substance, or pollutant or contaminant, released into the environment from a facility.

42 U.S.C. § 9658. Per the section's definition section, “ ‘applicable limitations period’ means the period specified in a statute of limitations during which a civil action referred to in subsection (a)(1) ... may be brought,” id. § 9658(b)(2), “ ‘commencement date’ means the date specified in a statute of limitations as the beginning of the applicable limitations period,” id. § 9658(b)(3), and “ ‘federally required commencement date’ means the date the plaintiff knew (or reasonably should have

[723 F.3d 440]

known) that the personal injury or property damages referred to in subsection (a)(1) ... were caused or contributed to by the hazardous substance or pollutant or contaminant concerned.” Id. § 9658(b)(4)(A). Thus, if a state statute of limitations provides that the period in which an action may be brought begins to run prior to a plaintiff's knowledge of his injury, § 9658 preempts the state law and allows the period to run from the time of the plaintiff's actual or constructive knowledge. And if a minor or incompetent plaintiff is involved, the period does not begin to run until the plaintiff reaches majority or competency or “has a legal representative appointed.” Id. § 9658(b)(4)(B).


II.

During the twenty-seven years since Congress passed § 9658, the amendment has no doubt served the goal of preserving claims that otherwise would have been defeated by state statutes of limitations. But it has also generated controversy. We address one such area of dispute here—namely, whether § 9658 preempts...

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17 practice notes
  • United States v. Pertuset, CRIMINAL ACTION NO. 2:15-cr-00077
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • February 8, 2016
    ...ruling in Bailey is further supported by the historical development of the federal registration requirement. Cf. Waldburger v. CTS Corp. , 723 F.3d 434, 450 (4th Cir.2013) (finding that the statute had a plain meaning and the court therefore “need not look to legislative history,” but nonet......
  • Nat'l Credit Union Admin. Bd. v. Nomura Home Equity Loan, Inc., Nos. 12–3295
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 19, 2014
    ...‘statute of limitations' and ‘statute of repose’ have seen considerable development in their usage and meaning.” Waldburger v. CTS Corp., 723 F.3d 434, 442 (4th Cir.2013). “[A] historical analysis reveals that both scholars and courts have often used the terms interchangeably.” Id. (citing ......
  • Nat'l Credit Union Admin. Bd. v. Nomura Home Equity Loan, Inc., Nos. 12–3295
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 27, 2013
    ...and ‘statute of repose’ have seen considerable development in their usage and meaning.” Waldburger v. CTS Corp., 2013 WL 3455775, at *6, 723 F.3d 434, 443 (4th Cir.2013). “[A] historical analysis reveals that both scholars and courts have often used the terms interchangeably.” Id. (citing M......
  • Standard Oil of Conn., Inc. v. Adm'r, Unemployment Comp. Act, No. 19493.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 15, 2016
    ...role of legislative compromise restrain the application of the remedial canon of statutory interpretation." Waldburger v. CTS Corp., 723 F.3d 434, 452 (4th Cir.)(Thacker, J., dissenting), rev'd, ––– U.S. ––––, 134 S.Ct. 2175, 189 L.Ed.2d 62 (2014). As one federal court has cogently not......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
17 cases
  • United States v. Pertuset, CRIMINAL ACTION NO. 2:15-cr-00077
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. Southern District of West Virginia
    • February 8, 2016
    ...ruling in Bailey is further supported by the historical development of the federal registration requirement. Cf. Waldburger v. CTS Corp. , 723 F.3d 434, 450 (4th Cir.2013) (finding that the statute had a plain meaning and the court therefore “need not look to legislative history,” but nonet......
  • Nat'l Credit Union Admin. Bd. v. Nomura Home Equity Loan, Inc., Nos. 12–3295
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 19, 2014
    ...‘statute of limitations' and ‘statute of repose’ have seen considerable development in their usage and meaning.” Waldburger v. CTS Corp., 723 F.3d 434, 442 (4th Cir.2013). “[A] historical analysis reveals that both scholars and courts have often used the terms interchangeably.” Id. (citing ......
  • Nat'l Credit Union Admin. Bd. v. Nomura Home Equity Loan, Inc., Nos. 12–3295
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (10th Circuit)
    • August 27, 2013
    ...and ‘statute of repose’ have seen considerable development in their usage and meaning.” Waldburger v. CTS Corp., 2013 WL 3455775, at *6, 723 F.3d 434, 443 (4th Cir.2013). “[A] historical analysis reveals that both scholars and courts have often used the terms interchangeably.” Id. (citing M......
  • Standard Oil of Conn., Inc. v. Adm'r, Unemployment Comp. Act, No. 19493.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 15, 2016
    ...role of legislative compromise restrain the application of the remedial canon of statutory interpretation." Waldburger v. CTS Corp., 723 F.3d 434, 452 (4th Cir.)(Thacker, J., dissenting), rev'd, ––– U.S. ––––, 134 S.Ct. 2175, 189 L.Ed.2d 62 (2014). As one federal court has cogently not......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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