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Supreme Court decision protects company, government from contamination liability

A group of homeowners received disappointing news on Monday when the Supreme Court ruled that they will not be able to pursue CTS Corp., an electronics manufacturer, for contaminating drinking water at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. The contamination apparently occurred while the company was conducting business until 1987, when it sold the property. The contamination itself was not discovered until 2009, when residents found that various chemicals in the water had the potential to cause health problems.

The reason the homeowners are not able to sue the company in court is that state law gives plaintiffs only 10 years after the last occurrence of contamination to seek damages. The issue up for the Supreme Court was whether a federal law giving contamination victims two years to sue from the date the contamination is discovered could be applied in this case. The court decided it could not. 

In addition to the homeowners, several thousand Marines formerly stationed at Camp Lejeune who were also exposed to contaminated drinking water over the years were disappointed by the decision. The Marines had attempted to sue the federal government for their exposure, but the government has relied on the same state law in denying liability. Although it doesn’t sound like the Supreme Court decision has killed that case, the decision was certainly not in the Marines’ favor.

Those who are harmed by a company’s contamination and pollution have the right to be compensated for injuries caused by the contamination. Navigating the law in such cases is not always easy, and it is important to work with an experienced environmental law attorney. When large numbers of people are exposed to contamination, it is all the more important to hold offending parties accountable.

Source: Military Times, “Supreme Court ruling in toxic water case a setback for Camp Lejeune families,” Sam Hananel, June 9, 2014. 

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