June 08, 2020

Judge Dismisses State Law Cleanup Suit, Finds CERCLA Preempts State Limitations Period

Joel L. Herz

In a decision left open by the opinion in Refined Metals Corp. v. NL Indus., No. 1:17-cv-02565-SEB-TAB, 2018 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 163988 (S.D. Ind. Sep. 25, 2018) (Refined I), aff’d., 937 F.3d 928 (7th Cir. 2019)(Refined II), the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana (District Court) ruled in Refined Metals Corp. v. NL Industries Inc., No. 19-cv-4578-JMS-DLP, 2020 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51512 (S.D. Ind. March 25, 2020) (Refined III), that Refined Metals’ inexplicable delay in filing its Indiana Environmental Legal Action (ELA) caused it to be barred. Refined III found that the ELA’s longer ten-year statute of limitations period directly conflicts with the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act’s (CERCLA) three-year limitations period. Thus, the ELA claims were pre-empted by CERCLA because the three-year limitations period had expired.

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