Senate Bill 574, Signed Into Law, may Bring New Life to Two Federal Contamination Lawsuits, Parker Waichman LLP Comments

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The bill involves issues surrounding groundwater contamination statutes, which may impact two groundwater lawsuits over Camp Lejeune and CTS Corporation.

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“We are pleased that plaintiffs may now have an opportunity to have their day in court over potential groundwater contamination issues that have been stalled in court for some time,” said Gary Falkowitz, Managing Attorney at Parker Waichman LLP.

Parker Waichman LLP, a national law firm dedicated to protecting the rights of victims injured by toxic substances is commenting on Senate Bill 574, which was just signed into law by North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory. The law may revitalize two key water contamination lawsuits in federal courts, according to a June 20, 2014 report.

Asheville, North Carolina residents have been pursuing a civil claim since 1987 against CTS Corporation, when the firm shuttered down. North Carolina's 1979 product liability law provides strict limitations on civil claims liability—a so-called “statute of repose”—to 10 years from the last contaminating act. The new legislation reveals that the law was not meant to apply to groundwater contamination, wrote CTS Corp. manufactured electronic components for over 30 years at its Mills Gap Road plant before its 1986 closure. In 1999, severe contamination tied to trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent, was discovered leaking into springs adjacent to the CTS plant, according to a June 19, 2014 Citizens-Times report.

Homeowners who built their houses on CTS property were unaware, for over two decades, that their well water was contaminated with carcinogens and other chemicals that may lead to illnesses and birth defects; the individuals brought their lawsuit in 2011. Ultimately, the lower courts ruled that federal environmental law superseded the 10-year limit; however, on June 9, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the state's statute supersedes the federal law, barring the plaintiffs from suing CTS Corp. (CTS Corp. v. Waldburger, Docket Number 13.339 brought in the United States Court of Appeals, 4th Circuit. (723 F.3d 434, 76 ERC 1929 (4th Cir. 2013) [2013 BL 184776])

State Representative Tim Moffitt (Republican-Buncombe), a key sponsor of the bill in the House, points out that, “The original law was never intended to apply to groundwater contamination, and this bill absolutely clarifies the original legislative intent,” according to Citizens-Times.

Parker Waichman LLP has long fought for victims of toxic exposure and continues to offer free evaluations to people who believed they, or their loved ones, may have been harmed by exposure to dangerous chemicals, carcinogens, or other substances.

The same ruling impacts a lawsuit brought against the federal government over contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune (Bryant v. United States; Camp Lejeune Water Contamination Litigation v. United States, No. 12-15424, 11th Circuit, argued January 17, 2014). The lawsuit was brought on behalf of thousands of Marines and their families allegedly exposed to toxins and radiation in Camp Lejeune drinking water from 1957 to 1987 and that accuses the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. of concealing information on the contamination for decades.

“We are pleased that plaintiffs may now have an opportunity to have their day in court over potential groundwater contamination issues that have been stalled in court for some time,” said Gary Falkowitz, Managing Attorney at Parker Waichman LLP.

There is a 30-day period between the court’s ruling and when it issues the written mandate. According to Representative Rick Glazier (Democrat-Cumberland), the written mandate is the important trigger date as the new law, once enacted, will enable the plaintiffs in both cases approximately two weeks to take legal action on their lawsuits. Attorneys in the cases are filing motions to request the High Court return the case to lower federal courts, according to WRAL News.

The new bill confirms that the 10-year statute is not meant to stop individuals from suing over damages resulting from groundwater contamination and enables groundwater pollution victims more avenues to bring lawsuits following blockage of the CTS Corp. lawsuit. The bill also helps ensure that the existing Camp Lejeune claims may proceed, according to Parker Waichman LLP.

Parker Waichman LLP has long offered free legal consultations to victims who have suffered adverse health effects following contamination with toxic substances. If you or a loved one experienced an adverse reaction following exposure to a dangerous substance, please contact the Firm at its Camp Lejeune Injury or Toxic Exposure pages. Free case evaluations are also available by calling 1-800-LAW-INFO (1-800-529-4636).

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