CTS Corp. v. Waldburger Case Brief

Facts of the Case

Federal law pre-empts state-law statutes of limitations in certain tort actions involving personal injury or property damage arising from the release of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant into the environment.. Petitioner CTS Corporation sold property on which it had stored chemicals as part its operations as an electronics plant. Twenty-four years later, respondents, the owners of portions of that property and adjacent landowners, sued, alleging damages from the stored contaminants. CTS moved to dismiss, citing a state statute of repose that prevented subjecting a defendant to a tort suit brought more than 10 years after the defendant’s last culpable act. Because CTS’ last act occurred when it sold the property, the District Court granted the motion. Findingambiguous, the Fourth Circuit reversed, holding that the statute’s remedial purpose favored pre-emption.


Does the FBI’s notice of intended forfeiture by sending certified letters to inmates while incarcerated satisfy due process?


“No. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote the opinion for the 7-2 majority. The Court explained the differences between statutes of limitations, which begin to run when the injury was discovered, and statutes of repose, which place an absolute bar on lawsuits regardless of whether any injury has been discovered. The Court held that statutes of limitations reflect a policy of encouraging a plaintiff to pursue his or her rights diligently and may be paused if an extraordinary circumstance prevents a plaintiff from bringing his or her claim. Statutes of repose, however, reflect a policy of freeing defendants from potential liability and generally cannot be paused even in extraordinary circumstances. Although the Court recognized that Congress has used the terms interchangeably in the past, in CERCLA Congress only used the term “statute of limitations” despite the Study Group Report’s use of both terms. Given Congress’ awareness of the distinction, the Court held that CERCLA could not be extended to pre-empt “statutes of repose.”In Part II-D of the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy argued that when a pre-emption clause is open to more than one plausible reading, courts tend to disfavor pre-emption and interpret the clause narrowly, especially when the law covers subject matter that is traditionally covered by state law. Justice Sonia M. Sotomayor and Justice Elena Kagan joined in Part II-D. Justice Antonin G. Scalia wrote a separate concurring opinion with respect to Part II-D and argued that pre-emption clauses should be interpreted simply by applying their ordinary meaning. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Justice Clarence Thomas, and Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr. joined the separate concurrence.Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote a dissenting opinion in which she argued that the statute of repose was essentially a statute of limitations and should be pre-empted by CERCLA because CERCLA’s purpose would be defeated if it did not pre-empt statutes of repose as well as statutes of limitations. Justice Ginsburg also wrote that the majority decision gave contaminators an incentive to conceal the hazards they have created. Justice Stephen G. Breyer joined the dissent.”

Case Information

Citation: 573 US 1 (2014)
Granted: Jan 10, 2014
Argued: Apr 23, 2014
Decided: Jun 9, 2014
Case Brief: 2014