The U.S. Supreme Court scheduled oral argument for April 23, 2014, in CTS Corp. v. Waldburger. For some cases brought under state law and involving hazardous substances, CERCLA preempts state statutes of limitation under 42 U.S.C. 9658.
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.
In a case out of North Carolina, the Fourth Circuit interpreted this language to also preempt a North Carolina statute of repose. A statute of limitations extinguishes the right of a claimant to pursue a cause of action after a set period of time has elapsed after a claim has accrued, while a statute of repose extinguishes causes of action against a defendant after a set period of time, regardless of whether claims have accrued. The Ninth Circuit reached a similar conclusion in McDonald v. Sun Oil Co., 548 F.3d 774 (9th Cir. 2008), while the Fifth Circuit disagreed in Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Poole Chem. Co., 419 F.3d 355 (5th Cir. 2005). The U.S. Supreme Court will settle the issue after granting review in January and now scheduling argument for April 23, 2014.