US High Court Blocks Asbestos Injury Lawsuit In Locomotive Case

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US High Court Blocks Asbestos Injury Lawsuit In Locomotive Case


WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)–The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that railroad maintenance workers can’t bring state-law personal injury lawsuits against locomotive equipment manufacturers for alleged asbestos-related injuries.

The court, in an opinion by Justice Clarence Thomas, said such lawsuits are preempted by a federal rail-safety law, the Locomotive Inspection Act.

The ruling barred a Pennsylvania lawsuit by the family of a railroad worker allegedly exposed to asbestos while working with locomotive brake shoes and insulation. The employee, George Corson, died after the lawsuit was filed.

The Corson family originally sued several defendants, though many were no longer a part of the case. Two remaining defendants were Railroad Friction Products Corp., a subsidiary of Westinghouse Air Brake Technologies Corp., and Viad Corp. (VVI).

Lawyers for the Corson family had argued a ruling for the companies could leave injured rail workers without legal remedies against equipment manufacturers. The Obama administration had filed a legal brief supporting rail workers’ right to sue, at least in some circumstances.

General Electric Co. (GE), a leading manufacturer of diesel-electric locomotives, and the National Association of Manufacturers were among several trade groups and companies that filed court briefs supporting the company defendants.

Three justices dissented in part to the court’s ruling. The dissenters would have allowed some of the plaintiffs’ claims to proceed.

The case is Kurns v. Railroad Friction Products Corp., 10-879.


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