New York State Senator Kathleen Marchione, a Republican from New York’s 43rd Senate District, introduced the “Hoosick Falls” bill ostensibly in response to her constituents’ ongoing water supply contamination concerns. This legislation, however, is not a rifle shot to address the Hoosick Falls situation. Rather, it has significant, long-term Statewide implications for many companies and potentially responsible parties (PRPs). The bill, S6824A, passed both the New York State Assembly and the Senate by wide margins, and would add Section 214-f to the New York Civil Practice Laws and Rules (CPLR.). If signed into law, this will allow people to bring a timely personal injury claim arising from claimed exposure to contaminants within three years of a site’s designation as a Superfund site or within the period authorized under CPLR Section 214-c, whichever is later.
Currently, pursuant to CPLR Section 214-c people are required to bring an action for damages for personal injury caused by exposure to toxic substances within three years from the time the injury was discovered or should have reasonably been discovered. Assuming that the bill becomes law, the statute of limitations will essentially be reset for those who claim an injury, even if it occurred many years ago or was caused by exposure to contamination at or from a newly designated Superfund site. This new statute of limitations will apply to any site designated as a Superfund site by either the EPA or the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
Individuals who previously would have been time-barred from bringing a cause of action may now find themselves with another opportunity to seek relief. Assuming that Governor Andrew Cuomo signs the bill into law, PRPs will be exposed to new claims even if the claimant suffered an injury or exposure years ago. With each new Superfund site designation comes a new three-year window for parties to bring a cause of action related to that site. While the rate of Superfund site designations has significantly declined since the program’s inception, there are still new designations being made every year. This legislation could create an incentive for the DEC to be more aggressive in the listing of new sites. PRPs will want to be aware of this amendment as each new Superfund site designation opens up the possibility that previously time-barred suits will once again be viable. This may incentivize parties to address sites under the Brownfield Cleanup Program in order to avoid the listing of a site.