HKM Attorneys Secure Summary Judgment on Preemption Grounds in Asbestos Injury Matter

Submitted by HKM Profession… on Fri, 12/08/2017 - 13:54

HKM litigators Pete Wanning and Brandon Glanz recently obtained summary judgment for a railroad braking system manufacturer client in a wrongful death asbestos matter in Ramsey County, Minnesota.  The case involved a career field representative and draftsman for the railroad industry who alleged to have developed mesothelioma after working with and around a variety of asbestos-containing materials and equipment.

In moving for summary judgment, HKM contended that the plaintiff's state law negligence, strict liability, and breach of warranty claims were preempted by federal railroad statutes and therefore due for dismissal.  A century ago, Congress enacted the Locomotive Inspection Act ("LIA") to provide regulations for locomotives and their "parts and appurtenances" for the protection of railroad employees.  The United States Supreme Court has since held that the LIA preempts the entire field of locomotive equipment regulation, thereby preempting state law tort claims involving locomotives.  However, the injured party in the present action contended he was exposed to asbestos from equipment on railcars, in addition to locomotives, and the United States Supreme Court has never defined the phrase "locomotive parts and appurtenances" to include brake shoes specifically on railcars.  Coincidentally, the Ramsey County court hadpreviously ruled on this question, and held under relatively similar facts that railcar brake shoes were not "locomotive parts and appurtenances" that would allow for summary judgment on preemption principles.   

HKM urged the Court to refine jurisdictional precedent to rule that the brakes of railcars, not just of locomotives themselves, qualified as "locomotive parts or appurtenances."  HKM contended that, because air braking systems are interconnected and integrated as a locomotive-based piece of equipment that controls the braking system on both the locomotive as well as railcars, brakes on railcars are thus "appurtenant" to the locomotive under the LIA.  The court agreed, finding several distinguishing factors from the prior Minnesota case and holding that the LIA preempted plaintiff's state law claims against HKM's client. 

HKM toxic tort lawyers enjoy a national reputation of excellence in representing manufacturers, contractors, premises owners and retailers as local, regional and national counsel in a broad spectrum of misbranding and exposure claims involving asbestos, silica, benzene, and food and supplement cases.