SOL barred City’s common law claims; ELA claim not time barred

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Shepard, Chief Justice.

The City of South Bend now owns much of the land where Studebaker Corp. once manufactured automobiles. It has sued Cooper Industries, LLC and others for environmental damage done to the site. In this appeal, the questions are whether the applicable statute of limitation bars these claims and whether appellant Cooper Industries is the corporate successor to Studebaker such that it may be liable on these environmental claims. We hold that the statute of limitation bars the City’s common law claims, that its claim under the Environmental Legal Action statute accrued at the time the statute became effective and thus is not barred, and that Cooper is the corporate successor to Studebaker for these purposes.

Conclusion (slip op. at 32): We affirm the trial court’s order and remand for further proceedings on the merits of the ELA claim.

Key Analysis (slip op. at 22, 30, 31): Because we understand the ELA as addressing the issue of “brownfields,” that the legislature did not intend to bar cities from bringing these actions, and that the statute of limitation did not run until the cause existed, we hold that South Bend may proceed with its ELA claims . . . The fact the successor corporation was incorporated in Delaware does not control. While the law of the state of incorporation may determine issues relating to the internal affairs of a corporation, different principles apply where the rights of third parties external to the corporation are at issue . . . This case is a claim about property damage. The injury occurred in Indiana. The law of the place of the wrong occurred (lex loci delicti) governs. In disputes such as this, particularly because it involves a third person, the law of the state with the most significant relationship to the dispute – here Indiana – applies.

Dickson, Sullivan, Boehm, and Rucker, JJ., concur.

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