Many skilled welders and machinists have developed a form of cancer called mesothelioma over the years. Welders and machinists often develop mesothelioma because many of the parts used in trains and commercial vehicles contained a toxic mineral called asbestos.
Asbestos was a very commonly used mineral in metal-based products for many years because it does not conduct heat well and can be used to make products heat-resistant and pliable.
Small asbestos fibers can become airborne when products containing the mineral are cut or otherwise disturbed. These tiny fibers can become caught in a person's body through ingestion or inhalation and cause a machinist to develop cancer. Asbestos-related cancer takes many years to develop and is often undiagnosed until it is at late, often fatal, stages of development.
The Supreme Court recently heard a case brought by the wife of a railroad welder and machinist who died of mesothelioma as a result of his asbestos exposure. The widow in Kurns v. Railroad Friction Products Corp. brought her lawsuit based on allegations of defective design and failure to warn of asbestos toxicity against Railroad Friction Products Corp. and Viad Corp.
The widow alleged that the corporations distributed locomotives and locomotive parts that were laced with asbestos. Unfortunately, she filed claims based only on state law, which the U.S. Supreme Court held were superseded, or pre-empted, by the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA), 49 U.S.C. § 20701 et seq.
There was established case law that held that the LIA pre-empted all areas of state law concerning the entire field of regulating locomotive equipment, including its safety.
This case highlights the importance of contacting an experienced mesothelioma litigation law firm that is well versed in the most recent state and federal case law concerning mesothelioma and product liability. Experienced mesothelioma attorneys will often bring the same state law-based claims as the widow in this case, but then also raise federal claims just in case a court finds the state-law based claims to be pre-empted by federal law.