Will The Legislature Have The Final Word On Groundwater Contamination? Looks That Way


Legislators are outmaneuvering School House Rock. Folks my age got a great civics lesson in how a bill becomes a law on Saturday mornings while eating sugary cereal in front of the tv. But a crucial element was missing from that lesson: the amendment. Remember that our constitution only requires that a bill pass each chamber in identical form; so if a Senate Bill gets changed before the House passes it, it returns to the Senate for concurrence in the House Committee Substitute. If the Senate concurs it's off to the Governor's desk.

In this case, on June 12th, a House Judiciary Committee took Senate Bill 574, dealing with bail bonds, and replaced the contents with a proposed law change on the Statute of Repose -- and title change -- that is in response to a recent NC Supreme Court Case dealing with groundwater contamination. The new version appeared in committee as a Proposed Committee Substitute which is technically an amendment and was adopted as such. The Committee Substitute, which passed the House on Thursday without dissent, rewrites G.S. 130A-26.3, regarding time period limitations for groundwater contamination legal actions and provides that the 10-year period set out in GS 1-52(a)(16) will not bar an action for personal injury or property damage caused by the consumption, exposure, or use of groundwater contaminated by a hazardous substance. The claimant's exposure to the contaminated groundwater must have occurred on or before June 19, 2013. The case this relates to is mentioned in Section 1 of the bill: CTS Corp. v. Waldburger.

The bill was sent to the Senate by Special Message which means it may appear on tonight's Senate calendar for a concurrence vote without otherwise being noticed.

You can view the new version of SB 574 - An Act Clarifying That Certain Civil Actions Relating To Groundwater Contamination Are Not Subject To The Ten-Year Statute Of Repose Set Forth In G.S. 1-52 here: http://www.ncleg.net/Sessions/2013/Bills/Senate/PDF/S574v4.pdf

Pull up your bowl of Lucky Charms and refresh your civics knowledge here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Otbml6WIQPo


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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