Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Lee v. CSX Transp., Inc.

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20156
Nos. No. 2D06-1416, (Fla. Dist. Ct. App., 06/22/2007)

The court held that the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act's (CERCLA's) federally required commencement date only applies to personal injury claims, not wrongful death claims. The court, therefore, upheld a lower court decision dismissing a wrongful death claim against a transportation company under Florida law. The plaintiff alleged that the cancer that took the decedent's life was caused by toxic environmental contamination released from a coal tar creosote plant owned by the company. The decedent died more than four years before the plaintiff filed suit. The trial court, therefore, ruled that the action was barred by the two-year statute of limitations. On appeal, the plaintiff argued that Florida law, with respect to the accrual of the plaintiff's action, is preempted by CERCLA, which contains a provision modifying the accrual date for actions for personal injury caused by hazardous substances. While CERCLA establishes a federally required commencement date that preempts any earlier accrual date applicable under state law, the plaintiff's wrongful death claim does not fall within the scope of the federal commencement date. There is a well-established distinction between wrongful death claims and personal injury claims, and CERCLA's federally required commencement date is only applicable to personal injury claims.