In the aftermath of revelations of contamination of drinking water in Hoosick Falls, New York and Flint, Michigan, the New York state legislature has amended the statute of limitations governing lawsuits for injuries caused by federally designated “Superfund” sites. The statute of limitations identifies the time period within which a person must file a lawsuit to prevent it from being barred. The change allows people who were unaware of the causal link between the contamination and personal injury more time to file a personal injury lawsuit.

Under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), enacted in 1980, Congress set up a fund, knows as Superfund, to be used to compensate individuals who have suffered personal injury from any federally designated toxic/hazardous waste facilities. In addition to federally designated Superfund sites, there can also be state-designated sites.

Until the New York legislature acted on July 21, anyone with a potential claim for damages or loss from a Superfund site had to file suit within three years of the time an injury either was, or reasonably should have been, discovered, whichever date was earlier. The amended law changes the timetable, so that it’s the later, rather than the earlier, date. In addition, the amended law applies the extended period regardless of whether the sites pose a significant threat to public health or the environment, and regardless of whether the sites have been properly closed and require no further action.

Legal authorities say that, because of the broad application of the changes, some people who were previously denied relief may have another chance for recovery.

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