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Burlington N. & Santa Fe Ry. Co. v. Skinner Tank Co.

Citation: 35 ELR 20159
No. No. 04-11217, (5th Cir., 07/28/2005)

The court holds that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) §309, which preempts a state's statute of limitations if it provides a commencement date earlier than the federal commencement date, does not preempt Texas' 15-year statute of repose in a chemical company's products liability claim. The lawsuit arose after the chemical company's above-ground storage tank ruptured and released chemicals onto its property. The company filed suit alleging that the manufacturer sold it a defective product. Although the Texas repose statute would require the 15-year repose period to begin on the day of sale, which was more than 15 years ago, the company argued that CERCLA §309 applied and, therefore, the commencement date began on the date of the rupture. CERCLA §309, however, does not extend to Texas' statute of repose. Statutes of limitations and statutes of repose are quite different. Unlike a statute of limitations, a statute of repose creates a substantive right to be free from liability after a legislatively determined period. The statute of repose, therefore, applies and the company's claim is time barred.

[A related decision in this litigation is digested at 35 ELR 20102.]

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