Supreme Court Case Shines Light on Asbestos Claims for Railroad Workers

The Supreme Court recently ruled on a case alleging that a railroad part distributor and manufacturer that sold locomotive parts containing asbestos was liable for causing an asbestos related injury. Although the court has held that the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA) allows railway workers to file suit against employers when the worker is exposed to asbestos and suffers an injury in these situations, the court ruled in favor of the defendants.

LIA regulates all lawsuits connected to the railway and asbestos related claims. Justice Clarence Thomas summarized the holding, stating that the worker was asking for a ruling in his favor based on "state-law claims [that] were pre-empted by the LIA." Since the LIA trumps state law, the court could not rule in the worker's favor.

Although the railway worker's family lost this battle, the case will likely continue and shines a light on how asbestos claims for railway workers differ from similar claims by employees in any other field.

Claims Available For Railway Workers

Asbestos was used in many railroad parts due to its ability to handle tremendous amounts of heat. Although this hardy material worked well for the trains, it proved disastrous to the workers.

The material is composed of microscopic fibers that can become lodged in the lungs. Since these fibers are so hardy, they do not decompose. After years of accumulation and irritation, asbestos exposure can lead to serious health problems, including:

  • Inflammation of the lungs
  • Mesothelioma, a rare cancer that occurs along the lining of the lungs
  • Lung cancer

Railway workers face a unique situation. Unlike most employees, if they develop one of these injuries due to their exposure to asbestos on the job they are not eligible for the workers' compensation program. Instead, these workers have to file a lawsuit under the protections of the LIA against their employer to receive the compensation needed to cover the costs of the injury.

If you or a loved one worked the railways and was injured due to asbestos exposure, compensation may be available to cover medical and rehabilitative expenses as well as pain and suffering. As a result, it is wise to contact an experienced railroad asbestos attorney to better ensure all legal rights and remedies are protected.