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U.S. Supreme Court

U.S. Supreme Court Rules Pre-emption Defeats Tort Claims of Railroad Worker

Posted Feb 29, 2012 10:30 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that federal law pre-empts tort claims by the estate of a railroad worker who died after contracting malignant mesothelioma.

The majority opinion (PDF) by Justice Clarence Thomas said the design defect and failure to warn claims are pre-empted by the Locomotive Inspection Act. The ruling defeats the lawsuit filed by the estate of George Corson, who had worked on locomotive brake shoes containing asbestos before he became ill.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor concurred in part and dissented in part in an opinion joined by Justices Stephen G. Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. They agreed that the design defect claim was pre-empted, but said the failure to warn claim should have been allowed.

The case is Kurns v. Railroad Friction Products Corp.

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