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Friday, November 25, 2011

Asbestos, Railroads and The US Supreme Court

For decades railroad equipment, including engines, were heavily insulated with asbestos fiber, a known carcinogen and causally related to mesothelioma, a rare and fatal cancer. Many lawsuits have been filed by victims and their families to recover benefits against the suppliers, manufacturers and distributors of asbestos fiber. This month, The US Supreme Court heard oral argument to determine whether state laws were preempted under Federal law and that state laws were not applicable in judging the lawsuits.

The initial claims for asbestos related diseases were filed as workers' compensation claims in the United States. Soon it was revealed that the suppliers, distributors and health research (trade) organizations were concealing information to the workers as to the deadly dangers of asbestos fiber. As asbestos related disease, including mesothelioma, became epidemic, tens of thousands of civil claims were filed.

As a result of the long latency period from exposure to asbestos fiber to disease manifestation, the claims continue to be filed on behalf of former workers and their estates. While the exposures are usually multi-faceted, the issue regarding which law will cover railroad claims remains unresolved.

Gloria Gail Kurns, Executrix of the Estate of George M. Corson, Deceased, et al., Petitioners v. Railroad Friction Products Corporation, No. 10-879.

US Supreme Court Opinion

SCOTUSblog Coverage

Briefs and Documents

Merits Briefs for Petitioners
Amicus Briefs in Support of the Petitioners
Merits Briefs for the Respondents
Amicus Briefs in Support of the Respondents
Certiorari-stage Documents
The supplemental briefs in this case make reference to the Solicitor General's brief in Crane v. Atwell, which is available here.    

For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman  1.973.696.7900 have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses.

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