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Reichhold, Inc. v. United States Metals Ref. Co.

ELR Citation: 38 ELR 20289
Nos. No. 03-453, (D.N.J., 11/20/2008)

A district court denied a metal refining company's motion to dismiss as time barred Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) §107 claims filed against it. In the 1990s, the plaintiff and the company entered into a settlement agreement. The agreement, however, contained a re-opener provision that described the claims from which the plaintiff did not release the company. Due to changes in the cleanup plan and based on the re-opener provision, the plaintiff filed the instant suit. The company argued that the plaintiff's excavation of soils from the site in 1994 for disposal off-site triggered the settlement agreement's tolling provision for non-released claims, and because the action was filed more than six years later, all of the plaintiff's claims under CERCLA are barred by the statute of limitations. But there is nothing in the language of the settlement agreement to indicate that the parties intended that the owner's obligation to initiate physical on-site construction of one remedy would begin to run the statute of limitations for all future claims for remediation of other non-released claims. The claims, therefore, are not time barred. The court also dismissed the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. There are issues of material fact as to the release or discharge of hazardous substances by the company, and the settlement agreement requires an initial proof by the plaintiff that each of its claims is a non-released claim.