In State v. Atlantic Richfield Company et al., 2016 VT 61 (May 27, 2016), the Vermont Supreme Court affirmed the superior court’s dismissal of the state’s claims, finding that the six-year statute of limitations is applicable to the generalized injury to state waters.
Issue: The state sued defendants in 2014, alleging: public nuisance; private nuisance; trespass; negligence; strict liability for design defect, defective product, and failure to warn; as well as civil conspiracy. The Vermont legislature banned methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), the chemical at issue, in 2005, so defendants moved to dismiss the claim based on the six-year statute of limitations. On appeal, the state argued that its claim was exempt from the statute of limitations under 12 V.S.A. §462, and that 10 V.S.A. §1390 created a new cause of action, under which the state’s claim would not be barred by the statute of limitations.
Holding: The Court affirmed the dismissal based on the six-year statute of limitations, finding that §462 only applies to “adverse-possession claims with respect to interests in state property, or property dedicated to a public, pious, or charitable use,” making the exemption inapplicable to this case, which was not about adverse possession. With regard to §1390, the Court found that even if it did create a retroactively enforceable cause of action, it still wouldn’t allow the state to apply it to injuries discovered more than six years before it filed its complaint.