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Supreme Court denies train worker's asbestos case

Asbestos exposure in the workplace can lead to serious injuries and even death, which is why the Occupational Safety and Health Administration enforces strict regulations on how much workers can be exposed to.

Asbestos dust and fibers create an unsafe work environment in many industries, and when it causes workers to be injured or killed, personal injury lawsuits are often brought against the employers. However, sometimes federal law can stand in the way of recovery.

Recently, the United States Supreme Court heard a case in which the family of a deceased welder and machinist for a railroad carrier filed suit against the carrier claiming that the death was a result of on-the-job asbestos exposure.

At issue in the case was whether locomotive companies could be sued after workers were harmed by asbestos exposure from trains and train parts, or if the lawsuits were preempted by the federal Locomotive Inspection Act.

In a 6-3 decision, the nation's highest court found that the personal injury claims were preempted by the LIA, which does not allow railroad workers to file personal injury lawsuits based in state law against train equipment companies.

Attorneys for the railroad worker's family argued that preempting these lawsuits leaves injured railroad workers without recourse. The Obama Administration filed a brief in support of this argument.

Even so, a majority of the court sided with the train manufacturing companies. The three dissenters said that some of the family's claims should have been allowed notwithstanding the restrictions set by the LIA.

Source: Fox Business, "US High Court Blocks Asbestos Injury Lawsuit In Locomotive Case," Feb. 29, 2012

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