December 21, 2011 – In a decision issued today, the Honorable Joseph H. Rodriguez of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey ruled that a bi-state commuter railroad cannot remove an asbestos victim’s state-based mesothelioma lawsuit simply because the railroad runs between two states.
NJ Federal Judge Keeps Mesothelioma Lawsuit in State Court Rejecting Bi-State Defendant’s Efforts to Move Case to Federal Court
CAMDEN, New Jersey, December 21, 2011 – In a decision issued today, the Honorable Joseph H. Rodriguez of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey ruled that a bi-state commuter railroad cannot remove an asbestos victim’s state-based mesothelioma lawsuit simply because the railroad runs between two states.
The case concerns Sandra Brust, a mesothelioma patient, whose father, John Noga, had worked for the Port Authority Transit Corporation (“PATCO”). PATCO operates a commuter railroad that runs from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, into southern New Jersey suburbs and was formed by an interstate compact. 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 train yard, where the trains were maintained and repaired. Unfortunately, while there, he was unknowingly exposed to asbestos from the trains’ brakes and other train parts and equipment, as well as asbestos-containing products used in the maintenance yard. Every day, workers like Mr. Noga were routinely exposed to asbestos from all these sources, even if they 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, which his daughter Sandra was ultimately exposed to when she greeted him at home and when she later laundered his dirty work clothes. At no time during his employment, did PATCO or the companies that supplied the asbestos products to the railroad ever warn Mr. Noga that by wearing his asbestos dust-covered clothes home, he was exposing his family to a dangerous and carcinogenic substance even though these companies had long since been aware of the dangers.
Years later, Sandra married and started a family of her own. In 2011, the Brust and Noga families were devastated to learn that Sandra had developed mesothelioma, a cancer which is caused by exposure to asbestos. Since almost all instances of Sandra’s exposure to asbestos occurred in New Jersey, the Brust family filed their mesothelioma lawsuit 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 mesothelioma victims.
Soon thereafter, PATCO filed papers attempting to transfer the lawsuit from the New Jersey state court to the federal court system (in legal parlance, they attempted to “remove” the case to federal court). In essence, PATCO argued that the Brusts should have to make their case in a different court, which operates under different rules and on different schedules, simply because part of its railroad was located in Pennsylvania.
Following a hearing on the matter, Judge Rodriguez concluded that while the compact that created PATCO may have been created by the federal government, that fact had nothing to do with the Brust family’s state-law claims against PATCO for causing Sandra’s mesothelioma. Therefore, the defendants’ attempt to remove the case from state court to federal court – for no other reason than because they were sued – was improper and he promptly issued an order sending the case back to state court in New Jersey.
This decision is significant since it recognizes that victims of asbestos exposure who have personal injury claims against bi-state agencies have the right to have their cases heard in state courts, which, at times, may be the preferred forum.
Sandra Brust and her family are represented by mesothelioma lawyers Moshe Maimon of Levy Konigsberg LLP, a New York City-based law firm that has specialized in representing victims of mesothelioma for more than twenty-five years.
Workers at factories and industrial sites were heavily exposed to asbestos that was used in products manufactured through at least the early 1980s. As a result, not only did these workers develop mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases, but in many cases their wives and children did as well by virtue of being exposed to the asbestos dust that was on their husband’s and father’s clothing when they came home from work.
Mesothelioma is an asbestos-related cancer that occurs most commonly in the pleura or peritoneum that line the lungs and abdominal cavities, respectively. The disease occurs after a “latency period” of many decades which explains why many people exposed to asbestos are diagnosed with mesothelioma many decades after the exposure itself occurs.
For more information about this or other mesothelioma lawsuits, please contact Levy Konigsberg LLP at 212-605-6200 or 1-800-MESO-LAW (1-800-637-6529), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Under the law of most states, pain and suffering from mesothelioma may be compensated through the award of money damages, usually obtained with the help of experienced mesothelioma attorneys. In some states other types of damages may also be recovered.
Asbestos litigation affords mesothelioma victims the opportunity to receive financial compensation and hold accountable the companies that caused their asbestos exposure.
- Preserve your rights to bring a legal action against the responsible parties within the limited time frame allowed by law, known as statute of limitations;
- Obtain maximum compensation in your case by being able to:
- Preserve evidence and establish facts of the asbestos exposure while the claimant is still alive and able to provide information;
- File and resolve a lawsuit against the responsible parties before they file for bankruptcy or, if they already have, to obtain compensation before their bankruptcy trust funds run out of money;
- Expedite your case, as courts tend to give higher priority to mesothelioma lawsuits where the claimant is still alive.