A New York federal judge has dismissed a CERCLA contribution action as time-barred, ruling that an administrative settlement in 1998 triggered the three-year statute of limitations. Chitayat v. Vanderbilt Associates, No. 03-5314 (E.D. N.Y. 03/22/10). The lawsuit involved a property in Hauppauge Industrial Park purchased by the plaintiff in 1985 and found to be contaminated in 1989. In 1998, the plaintiff entered into an administrative settlement with the New York Department of Environmental Conservation under which he agreed to contribute up to $125,000 annually to remediation efforts. In 2003, the plaintiff sued the previous owners of the site, seeking contribution and arguing that an out-of-court administrative settlement with a state agency would not trigger CERCLA’s three-year statute of limitations.
In granting the defendant’s motion for summary judgment, however, the court agreed that the suit was time-barred and concluded that the statute of limitations applied as long as the administrative settlement completely resolved the settling party’s CERCLA liability. According to the court, “[s]uch a conclusion comports with the rule under federal common law that it is the discovery of the injury which triggers the statute of limitations.”