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Perry v. A.W. Chesterton, Inc.

United States District Court, Third Circuit

December 5, 2013

ALICE PERRY, Administratrix of the Estate of George Perry, deceased and ALICE PERRY Plaintiff,
A.W. CHESTERTON, INC., ET AL., Defendants. MDL No. 875


EDUARDO C. ROBRENO, District Judge.


Before the Court is the Rule 12(b)(6) Motion to Dismiss of Defendant Railroad Friction Products Corporation ("Defendant" or "RFPC").

Plaintiff Alice Perry, as administratrix and in her own right, ("Plaintiff" or "Mrs. Perry"), asserts that her husband ("Decedent" or "Mr. Perry") developed asbestos-related injuries while installing and removing RFPC brake shoes located on various types of railcars. RFPC argues that Plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed because her claims are preempted by the Locomotive Inspection Act ("LIA"), 49 U.S.C. ยง 20701 et seq. Plaintiff argues that the LIA does not preempt her claims because the brake shoes that Decedent was exposed to were not found on a locomotive.

The sole issue in this case is whether the LIA operates to preempt Plaintiff's state law claims, especially in light of the Supreme Court's decision in Kurns v. Railroad Friction Products Corp. , 565 U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 1261 (2012), which affirmed the breadth of the long-standing field preemption of the LIA. Specifically, the issue is whether the LIA's broad preemptive scope covers Plaintiff's claims relating to Decedent's exposure to brake shoes located on railcars, and not on locomotives. For the reasons that follow, the Court holds that the LIA operates to preempt Plaintiff's claims because the railcar brake shoes are a "part or appurtenance" of the locomotive. Accordingly, Defendant's motion to dismiss will be granted.[1]


A party may move to dismiss a complaint for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted. Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6). When considering such a motion, the Court must "accept as true all allegations in the complaint and all reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom, and view them in the light most favorable to the non-moving party." DeBenedictis v. Merrill Lynch & Co., Inc. , 492 F.3d 209, 215 (3d Cir. 2007) (internal quotation marks omitted). To withstand a motion to dismiss, the complaint's "[f]actual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level." Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly , 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). This "requires more than labels and conclusions, and a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do." Id . Although a plaintiff is entitled to all reasonable inferences from the facts alleged, a plaintiff's legal conclusions are not entitled to deference and the Court is "not bound to accept as true a legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation." Papasan v. Allain , 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986).

The pleadings must contain sufficient factual allegations so as to state a facially plausible claim for relief. See, e.g., Gelman v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co. , 583 F.3d 187, 190 (3d Cir. 2009). "A claim has facial plausibility when the plaintiff pleads factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.'" Id . (quoting Ashcroft v. Iqbal , 556 U.S. 662, 678 (2009)). In deciding a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, the Court is to limit its inquiry to the facts alleged in the complaint and its attachments, matters of public record, and undisputedly authentic documents if the complainant's claims are based upon these documents. See Jordan v. Fox, Rothschild, O'Brien & Frankel , 20 F.3d 1250, 1261 (3d Cir. 1994); Pension Benefit Guar. Corp. v. White Consol. Indus., Inc. , 998 F.2d 1192, 1196 (3d Cir. 1993).


A. The Preemptive Effect of the LIA

1. The Supreme Court's Decision in Kurns and its Affirmation of Napier

The Supremacy Clause dictates that "federal law shall be the supreme Law of the Land... any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.'" Kurns , 132 S.Ct. at 1265 (quoting U.S. Const., Art. VI, cl. 2). There exist three types of federal preemption: express preemption, implied conflict preemption, and field preemption. Kurns v. Chesterton , 620 F.3d 392, 395 (3d Cir. 2010) ("Kurns I"), aff'd sub nom. Kurns v. Railroad Friction Prods. Corp. , 132 S.Ct. 1261 (2012). Field preemption "arises when a state law or regulation intrudes upon a field reserved for federal regulation.'" Id. at 396 (quoting United States v. Locke , 529 U.S. 89, 111 (2000)). "Where Congress occupies an entire field... even complimentary state regulation is impermissible." Arizona v. United States , 567 U.S. ___, 132 S.Ct. 2492, 2502 (2012).

In Kurns, the Supreme Court reaffirmed its decision eighty-five years earlier in Napier v. Atlantic Coast Line R. Co. , 272 U.S. 605 (1926), which held that state requirements of certain safety equipment on railroads were preempted by the LIA. The LIA, the Napier Court had said, "manifest[s] the intention to occupy the entire field of regulating locomotive equipment[.]" Napier , 272 U.S. at 611. Congress had bestowed upon the Interstate Commerce Commission the "general" power (which now rests with the Secretary of Transportation, see Kurns , 132 S.Ct. at 1266 n.3) to address, to the exclusion of the states, "the design, the construction and the material of every part of the locomotive and tender and of all appurtenances." Napier , 272 U.S. at 611.

In Kurns, the plaintiff had "worked in locomotive repair and maintenance facilities, where his duties included installing brake shoes on locomotives and stripping insulation from locomotive boilers." 132 S.Ct. at 1264. After the plaintiff was diagnosed with mesothelioma, he brought state law claims of defective design and failure to warn, alleging that the products to which he had been exposed contained asbestos and caused his injuries. Id . ...

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