Asbestos, Railroads and The US Supreme Court

Railroad workers install deadly asbestos fiber.

Today’s post comes to us from my colleague Jon Gelman of New Jersey.

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. In November, 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.

For over 3 decades the Law Offices of Jon L. Gelman in New Jersey have been representing injured workers and their families who have suffered occupational accidents and illnesses. Jon is a prolific author, public speaker and educator on the topic of workers’ compensation law.

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