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Statute of Limitations for Spill Act Claims

Workers remove crude oil from a beach

Generally, most legal claims and lawsuits have a time limit within which the claimant must file in order to retain their legal rights. Claims brought under the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act (Spill Act) should be no different: If the government has grounds to seek compensation after a spill cleanup, they should be forced to do so within a reasonable time. Statutes generally set the time limit, called the statute of limitations, for claims brought under that particular section of the law. Where no specific limitation period is set, courts look to general periods of limitations from the broader area of law. The Spill Act, unfortunately, does not set an explicit statute of limitations. For some time, courts were unclear on the statute of limitations as a result. The New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled on the matter, and its decision makes hiring a professional, licensed underground storage tank (UST) remediation and removal specialist to remediate your UST all the more important.

New Jersey Supreme Court Says No Statute of Limitations for Spill Act Claims

The matter of Morristown Associates v. Grant Oil Co. concerned a Spill Act claim brought several years after the cleanup. The defendants argued that Spill Act claims should be subject to the general six-year statute of limitations for claims involving injury to real property. On appeal, the Supreme Court of New Jersey reached a unanimous decision that should frighten any developer faced with a UST spill: The Spill Act has no apparent statute of limitations.

According to the Court, the New Jersey legislature enumerated specific grounds to defend against a Spill Act contribution claim, including “war, sabotage, governmental negligence, God, or a third party or a combination thereof.” The statute of limitations was not listed among the available defenses. The Spill Act does not otherwise include or exclude a statute of limitations for contribution claims. The Court stated that the remedial purpose of the Spill Act would be thwarted if defendants could rely on an unmentioned statute of limitations. Moreover, courts and parties had generally understood up to that point that the statute of limitations did not apply, and the legislature did nothing in response.

Thus, no statute of limitations applies to Spill Act contribution claims. This means, in effect, that potential defendants could be subject to Spill Act contribution claims even decades later.

Call in the Professionals at Lutz to Handle Your Underground Storage Tank Issues

If you find a UST at your construction worksite or are dealing with a UST spill on your property, get help from trusted advisors with years of underground storage tank experience. For dedicated, qualified assistance, call Herbert Lutz & Company, in Florida at 954-971-5222, or in New Jersey at 908-862-8888.

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