Today's Law As Amended


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AB-2748 Environmental disaster: release of claims: statute of limitations: attorneys’ fees.(2015-2016)



As Amends the Law Today


SECTION 1.

 Section 1544 is added to the Civil Code, to read:

1544.
 (a) A partial or interim payment or reimbursement of any kind made in connection with an environmental disaster by the responsible polluter or any agent or entity related to the responsible polluter to any recipient shall not release the polluter from liability to the recipient for any claim related to the environmental disaster or for any future claim by the recipient against the polluter, or for both current and future claims. Any such partial or interim payment or reimbursement shall not be conditioned upon the recipient’s agreement to release the polluter from liability for any current or future claim.
(b) Notwithstanding subdivision (a), a payment or reimbursement made in connection with an environmental disaster by the responsible polluter or any agent or entity related to the responsible polluter to any recipient may be credited against the liability of the polluter, agent, or entity to the recipient for any current or future claim that is related to the environmental disaster.
(c) A temporary or final settlement of any kind made in connection with an environmental disaster by the responsible polluter or any agent or entity related to the responsible polluter, to any claimant, shall release the responsible polluter, agent, or entity from liability to the claimant only for acts, omissions, or injuries that are believed by the claimant to have occurred prior to the date of the settlement, and shall not release any claim that is unknown to the claimant at the time of the settlement, occurs subsequent to the settlement, or that is unrelated to the environmental disaster.
(d) Any agreement in violation of subdivision (a) or (c) that is entered into on or after February 1, 2017, is void as a matter of law and against public policy.
(e) For purposes of this section, a “partial or interim payment or reimbursement” is a payment of the recipient’s immediate out-of-pocket expenses, including, but not limited to, food, clothing, and shelter.
(f) The provisions of this section shall only apply to an agreement relating to acts, omissions, or injuries in connection with an environmental disaster that occurred at Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon gas storage facility or contamination surrounding the Exide Technologies facility in the City of Vernon.
(g) This section shall not apply to any action against a public entity as defined in Section 811.2 of the Government Code.

SEC. 2.

 Section 340.85 is added to the Code of Civil Procedure, immediately following Section 340.8, to read:

340.85.
 (a) Notwithstanding Section 340.8, in any civil action for injury or illness based upon exposure to a hazardous material or toxic substance, the time for commencement of the action shall be no later than either three years from the date of injury, or three years after the plaintiff becomes aware of, or reasonably should have become aware of, (1) an injury, (2) the physical cause of the injury, and (3) sufficient facts to put a reasonable person on inquiry notice that the injury was caused or contributed to by the wrongful act of another, whichever occurs later.
(b) Notwithstanding Section 340.8, in an action for the wrongful death of any plaintiff’s decedent, based upon exposure to a hazardous material or toxic substance, the time for commencement of an action shall be no later than either (1) three years from the date of the death of the plaintiff’s decedent, or (2) three years from the first date on which the plaintiff is aware of, or reasonably should have become aware of, the physical cause of the death and sufficient facts to put a reasonable person on inquiry notice that the death was caused or contributed to by the wrongful act of another, whichever occurs later.
(c) For purposes of this section:
(1) A “civil action for injury or illness based upon exposure to a hazardous material or toxic substance” does not include an action subject to Section 340.2 or 340.5.
(2) Media reports regarding the hazardous material or toxic substance contamination do not, in and of themselves, constitute sufficient facts to put a reasonable person on inquiry notice that the injury or death was caused or contributed to by the wrongful act of another.
(d) The provisions of this section shall only apply to an action relating to exposure to a hazardous material or toxic substance in connection with an environmental disaster that occurred at Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon gas storage facility or contamination surrounding the Exide Technologies facility in the City of Vernon.
(e) This section shall not apply to any action against a public entity as defined in Section 811.2 of the Government Code.

SEC. 3.

 Section 1021.3 is added to the Code of Civil Procedure, to read:

1021.3.
 (a) In any action for private nuisance against an environmental polluter defendant arising out of an environmental disaster for which the defendant has been adjudged civilly liable, the court, upon motion, may award reasonable attorneys’ fees to a prevailing plaintiff against the defendant.
(b) The provisions of this section shall only apply to an environmental disaster that occurred at Southern California Gas Company’s Aliso Canyon gas storage facility or contamination surrounding the Exide Technologies facility in the City of Vernon.
(c) This section shall not apply to any action against a public entity as defined in Section 811.2 of the Government Code.
SEC. 4.
 The Legislature finds and declares that a special law is necessary and that a general law cannot be made applicable within the meaning of Section 16 of Article IV of the California Constitution to achieve just and efficient results in civil litigation involving the unique circumstances of damages resulting from specific environmental disasters within the state.