Appellate Division Finds a Six Year Statute of Limitations Applicable to New Jersey Spill Act Claims

In what is a potential game changing decision, the Appellate Division of the Superior Court of New Jersey, in Morristown Associates v. Grant Oil Company, et al., Docket No. A-0313-11T3 (App. Div. Aug. 23, 2013) recently held that the six year statute of limitations applicable to property damage claims is applicable to private claims pursuant to the New Jersey Spill Compensation and Control Act.

For years, many New Jersey state trial courts have found that there is no statute of limitations applicable to such claims under the Spill Act based on an unpublished Appellate Division decision, Mason v. Mobil Oil, 1999 WL 33605936 (N.J. Super. Ct. App. Div. June 8, 1999) (unpublished), which had extended the courts previous holding in Pitney Bowes v. Baker Industries, Inc., 277 N.J Super. 484 (App. Div. 1994) that a statute of repose was not applicable to the Spill Act. However, after Morristown Associates, and unless the New Jersey Supreme Court or Legislature considers the issue further, it is now clear that there is a statute of limitations applicable to claims for contribution pursuant to the Spill Act and, based on the discovery rule of Lopez v. Swyer, 62 N.J. 267 (1973), it is six years from the time a party discovers or should have discovered the basis for the claim.

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