SCOTUS Lets Asbestos Preemption Ruling Stand

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By Peter Hayes

Oct. 4 — The U.S. Supreme Court Oct. 3 let stand a ruling that federal law preempts take-home asbestos claims relating to an urban rapid transit line ( Estate of Brust v. Del. River Port Auth. , 2016 BL 327491, U.S., No. 15-1529, 10/3/16 ).

The high court declined to consider a New Jersey appeals court finding that the Locomotive Inspection Act bars state-law claims arising from locomotive equipment—even if the entity operating the equipment isn’t subject to federal railroad regulations.

The Port Authority Transit Corporation is an urban rapid transit operation, not a railroad, and therefore not subject to federal railroad safety regulations or to federal law generally.

Sandra Brust alleged that asbestos brought home on her father’s work clothes caused her mesothelioma.

In Nov. 2015, a New Jersey appeals court found the claims preempted.

“In our view, state-law claims for defective design of the `locomotive equipment,’ and for failure to warn about its risks, fall within the field preempted by the LIA as defined in Napier,” the appeals court said, citing Napier v. Atl. Coast Line R.R. Co., 272 U.S. 605 (1926).

“Because plaintiffs’ negligence and products liability claims are directed at `the subject of locomotive equipment,’ they are therefore preempted under the sweeping field preemption adopted in Napier,” the court said.

Levy Konigsberg, L.L.P., and Szaferman, Lakind, Blumstein & Blader, PC represented the estate of Sandra Brust.

Archer & Greiner P.C. represented PATCO.

To contact the reporter on this story: Peter Hayes in Washington at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Steven Patrick at

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