Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Roth v. Norfalco LLC

Jun 28: In the U.S. Court of Appeals, Third Circuit, Case No. 10-2524. Appealed from the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania. In a brief summary the Appeals Court explains, David Roth was attempting to unload a railway tank car filled with sulfuric acid when its chemical contents exploded, spraying Roth across his face and chest and inflicting severe burns. Roth brought suit, seeking damages for his personal injuries under the common law, but the District Court held that his lawsuit was preempted by the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA), 49 U.S.C. §§ 5101–5128. The Appeals Court agreed and affirmed the district court decision. 

    In further explanation, the Appeals Court says, "the statute and its applicability could not be more clear. Roth seeks to impose a tank car design requirement. Section 5125(b)(1) expressly preempts any common law requirement 'about' the design of a 'package, container, or packaging component . . . qualified for use in transporting hazardous materials in commerce.' Roth concedes that Norfalco's tank cars are containers qualified for use in transporting hazardous materials in commerce. Thus, the HMTA plainly encompasses Roth's common law claims. It is irrelevant what Roth was doing at the precise moment of his injury. This only makes sense, for it cannot be the case that the comprehensive design requirements erected by the HMTA cease to govern simply because the tank car was emptied of its contents days after its delivery. The tank car is, at all times, a container qualified for use in transporting hazardous materials. The proposed design requirement is expressly preempted."
    Access the complete opinion (click here). [*Haz, *Transport, *CA3]

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