Asbestos Exposure & Mesothelioma in Railroad Workers
Representing Railroad Workers Harmed by Occupational Asbestos Exposure
The dangers of asbestos exposure have long been known, yet asbestos was continuously used in a wide variety of products throughout the 20th century. In the railroad and locomotive industry, asbestos was commonly used in train brake linings, engines, and other components. In fact, the use of asbestos in the railroad industry was so widespread, even those who did not directly handle the repair of these parts were at risk of asbestos exposure.
The nature of railroad work—which often included cutting, sanding, smoothing, and otherwise disturbing asbestos-containing train components—meant that railroad workers of all types frequently inhaled or ingested asbestos dust. As a result, countless workers developed asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related illnesses.
If you or someone you love has suffered because of occupational exposure to asbestos, Levy Konigsberg can help. Our nationally recognized asbestos attorneys are proud to represent railroad workers and their families, fighting to protect their rights and secure the justice they deserve. We have successfully taken on some of the biggest asbestos manufacturers in the world, recovering more than $3 Billion in total for our clients. We have decades of experience and are known for being among the first attorneys to pursue mesothelioma litigation in the U.S., as well as for achieving results that have not only changed the lives of our clients but also altered laws and public policy nationwide.
How Railroad Workers & Their Families Were Exposed to Asbestos
Asbestos is a naturally occurring group of minerals known for its inherent strength and heat-resistant qualities. These qualities are what made it so popular in train, locomotive, and other railroad products, including brakes, brake pads, brake linings, clutches, driving cabins and carriages, gaskets, sealing cement, insultation, plaster, paint, wallboards, ceiling tiles, flooring, and more. As a result, all types of railroad workers—including repair workers, roadhouse workers, maintenance workers, conductors, yardmasters, and others—were frequently exposed to asbestos in the course of their employment.
Some of the most common ways in which railroad workers were exposed to asbestos include:
- Installing, maintaining, and repairing asbestos-containing components
- Working near areas where asbestos-containing parts were being cut, sanded, or smoothed
- General wear and tear on asbestos-containing components
- Repairing, removing, or replacing brake pads, brake linings, and related parts
- Sealing pipe joints and valves with asbestos-containing sealing cement and gaskets
- Working on trains’ electrical, plumbing, and heating/air conditioning systems
- Painting trains or removing old coats of paint, often with sanding
- Installing, removing, or replacing asbestos-containing insulation, tiles, etc.
Additionally, railroad workers often brought asbestos fibers home inadvertently on their clothing and in their hair. As a result, their families were frequently exposed to harmful asbestos fibers, and there have been numerous documented cases of railroad workers’ family members developing mesothelioma and other asbestos-related health conditions.
Who Is Liable for Railroad-Related Asbestos Exposure?
Numerous manufacturers have been held liable for asbestos exposure-related damages on behalf of railroad workers and their families who suffered asbestos-related illnesses, including mesothelioma, as a result of occupational and non-occupational exposure.
Some of these entities include:
- Abex Corporation
- Electro-Motive Diesel (a division of General Motors)
- Griscom-Russell Company (now Viad Corporation)
- H.K. Porter
- Johns Manville (JM)
- Keasbey & Mattison (K&M)
- Railroad Friction Products Corp.
Additionally, numerous railroad companies have been involved in asbestos-related litigation, including national corporations like Amtrak and Transtar, as well as local state and municipal entities.
Asbestos Claims Against Rapid Transit Railroad Equipment Manufacturers
On February 29, 2012, the United States Supreme Court issued a decision in the matter of Kurns v. Railroad Friction Products Corp., 565 U.S. __, No. 10-879 (2012). In its decision, the Supreme Court held that people who suffer injuries on railroads cannot sue the manufacturers of the faulty railroad products or equipment in state courts as these lawsuits have been “preempted” by federal law. This included claims against the suppliers of equipment that contained asbestos materials that contributed to the development of mesothelioma and other diseases.
“Preemption” is the idea that state laws are preempted by federal laws, meaning federal laws take precedence over state laws. The United States Constitution requires that federal law be superior to state law. When the two conflict—that is, when following one requires not following the other—courts require that the federal law be followed. The state law, therefore, is preempted.
In its decision in Kurns, the Supreme Court held that federal laws governing safety on railroads preempted state-based claims against the manufacturers of asbestos-containing railroad equipment. However, a New Jersey judge later identified an exception to the ruling in Kurns.
The New Jersey case concerns Sandra Brust whose father, John Noga, had worked for the Port Authority Transit Corporation (PATCO). PATCO operates a rapid transit railroad that runs from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania into southern New Jersey. In the 1970s, Mr. Noga worked for PATCO as a train operator and supervisor. His duties required him to operate trains, service the trains during breakdowns, as well as fulfill other functions in the trainyard, where the trains were maintained and repaired.
Unfortunately, while there, he was unknowingly exposed to asbestos from the trains’ brakes and other train systems and equipment, as well as asbestos products used in the maintenance yard. Every day, workers like Mr. Noga were routinely exposed to this asbestos even if they themselves were not directly working with the products.
At the end of each day, Mr. Noga would come home from work covered with asbestos dust and fibers. As a result, his daughter Sandra was exposed to the asbestos dust that was on her father’s clothing not only when he came home from work, but also when she laundered his dirty work clothes, which was one of her regular household chores. At no time during his employment did PATCO or the companies that manufactured or supplied the asbestos-containing equipment to the railroad ever warn Mr. Noga that by wearing his asbestos dust-covered clothes home he was exposing his family to a dangerous carcinogenic substance, even though they were well aware of the dangers of asbestos exposure.
In 2011, the Brust and Noga families were devastated to learn that Sandra had developed mesothelioma, a cancer caused by exposure to asbestos. Since almost all of Sandra’s exposures to asbestos occurred in New Jersey, the Brust family filed their case in the state court of New Jersey. This decision was no small matter; not only do the state courts of New Jersey have extensive experience adjudicating asbestos-related lawsuits, but they also prioritize and quickly advance the cases filed by living plaintiffs.
In February 2012, following the Supreme Court’s decision in Kurns, the companies who manufactured the PATCO’s equipment petitioned the court to dismiss the Brust’s claims, arguing that they were now preempted by federal law. Following a hearing on the matter, however, Judge Ann McCormick of the Superior Court of New Jersey concluded that, while most claims against railroad equipment manufacturers would be preempted, those against PATCO fall into a narrow exclusion: PATCO is considered a rapid transit system by federal regulators, and since the federal government allows states to regulate their own local rapid transit railroads, the Kurns decision and the laws that underlie it do not apply.
Levy Konigsberg was proud to represent Sandra Brust and her family, as well as numerous victims who have been negatively affected by exposure to asbestos while working on, near, or around trains and trainyards, as well as in other railroad-related occupations.
Contact Levy Konigsberg to Speak to Our Railroad Worker Asbestos Exposure Lawyers
If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with mesothelioma or another asbestos-related illness, reach out to Levy Konigsberg right away. Our railroad asbestos exposure attorneys have extensive experience and a long, proven track record of success in representing railroad workers and the families of railroad workers who have suffered serious illnesses due to asbestos exposure. We understand the complexity of these cases, and we have what it takes to aggressively advocate for your maximum recovery.
Our team is not afraid to go up against large, powerful railroad manufacturers, transportation companies, and other entities that prioritize profits over public safety. We have successfully taken on some of the nation’s largest railroad companies, as well as global asbestos manufacturers, in our pursuit of justice on behalf of our clients. We offer completely free consultations, and our multilingual staff can assist you in Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, and numerous other languages as needed.
Find out whether you have a case by speaking to one of our experienced mesothelioma lawyers via our 24/7 toll-free hotline or by submitting an email inquiry. Our attorneys will be quick to respond to you and happy to answer all of your questions.
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