Federal Law Preempts State Claims in Asbestos Case

The estate of a New Jersey woman who died of mesothelioma—possibly caused by physical contact with her father, who worked for a rapid transit system, and his asbestos-covered clothes—cannot sue the transportation system in state court, an appeals panel has ruled.

Any state tort claims the estate may have against the key defendants—the Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) and its subsidiary, the Port Authority Transit Corp.—are pre-empted by federal laws governing locomotives, the three-judge Appellate Division panel said in a published ruling Nov. 19.

The same federal law that governs locomotives also pre-empts claims against the manufacturers and distributors of the locomotives’ brakes, which the woman’s father worked on while employed by PATCO, the court said.

“Since 1926, it has been settled that in enacting the Locomotive Inspection Act … Congress intended to occupy the entire field of locomotive equipment,” wrote Appellate Division Judge Carmen Alvarez in Brust v. ACF Industries.

“Congress thereby pre-empted both state legislation that would affect the design, construction, and material of every part of the locomotive and its appurtenances … and state law tort claims for defective design of locomotive equipment.”

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Source: Federal Law Preempts State Claims in Asbestos Case


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