The New York State Legislature has come to the aid of victims exposed to toxic substances at Superfund sites by extending the time a lawsuit can be brought, known as the Statute of Limitations. Senator Kathleen Marchione, Republican from the 43rd Senate District, introduced the bill (known as the “Hoosick Falls” bill) as a result of her constituents’ concerns over the continuing water contamination in their town. For those victims of toxic exposure at Superfund sites, the remedy is not limited to Hoosick Falls, but has statewide impacts.
The bill, S6824, passed both the New York State Assembly and the Senate by wide margins, was signed into law by Governor Cuomo. The new law adds Section 214-f to the New York Civil Practice Laws and Rules (CPLR.) which govern how lawsuits are brought in New York. This new law will allow victims of toxic exposures to bring a personal injury lawsuit arising from exposure to toxic substances within three years of a site’s designation as a Superfund site or within the period authorized under the current law, whichever is later.
Under the current law (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. With this new provision, the statute of limitations will essentially be reset to zero for those who suffered an injury even if it happened years in the past and the injury was was caused by exposure to contamination at or from a newly designated Superfund site. The new time limit will begin to run on the date of the site’s designation as a Superfund site. This new time limit will apply to any site designated as a Superfund site by either the EPA or the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
This bill is very important to victims of toxic exposures, especially for those whose injuries don’t appear for many years after exposure. In other cases, it may be years before medical professionals can connect a disease to an exposure. Under the old law, by the time these things happened, a victim was usually prevented from bringing a lawsuit because the time to bring a lawsuit had expired.
This new law opens a new window for victims of toxic exposures generated from newly designated Superfund sites.