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Preemption of state court claims in asbestos litigation

When it comes to seeking compensation in asbestos litigation, determining the appropriate avenue for doing so is not always a straightforward matter. In asbestos litigation, determining the right avenue for compensation is important in order to ensure that an exposure victim or his or her estate is properly compensated. In some cases, a victim of asbestos exposure may run into problems seeking compensation. One such possibility is when an asbestos claim is blocked due to federal preemption.           

Federal preemption refers to the principle that where federal and state law deal with the same issues or areas of regulation, federal law takes precedence over state law when there is a conflict. At the federal level, both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency regulate the use of asbestos, and so it is possible that there may be circumstances where state and federal law come into conflict when it comes to the regulation of asbestos and asbestos-related claims. When this does happen, it can affect asbestos litigation.

A recent example of preemption in asbestos litigation occurred out in New Jersey, where a court of appeals ruled that the estate of a New Jersey woman who died of mesothelioma—allegedly in connection to her father’s work with the transportation system—cannot sue the transportation system in state court. The reason for the court’s decisions was that the federal law which regulates locomotives preempts state law claims against the manufacturers and distributors of automotive brakes, which is what the woman’s father had apparently worked on during his employment with the transportation system.

Navigating the law related to asbestos litigation is not always an easy matter, and it is critical for those who wish to receive the compensation due to them to work with an experienced advocate.

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