Washington, DC—The American Association for Justice (AAJ) today demanded the Bush Administration halt its effort to prohibit railway accident victims from pursuing legal action against railroad companies responsible for their injury or death.
Addition of this preemptive language by the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to a pending safety regulation is yet another example of the Bush Administration’s catering to corporate interests while further endangering the public’s health and safety.
“Once again, the Bush Administration has come down on the side of corporate irresponsibility against consumer safety,” said AAJ CEO Jon Haber. “This is a cynical attempt to allow railroad companies to evade accountability in the courts when people are killed and injured by their negligence and wrongdoing.”
Members of Congress also demanding the removal of the pre-emption language include House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar (D-MN), House Committee on Homeland Security Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), who represents the Southern California district that suffered a major commuter railroad accident with multiple fatalities in 2005.
The FRA relies upon Section 20106 of the Federal Rail Safety Act to claim that its rule preempts any state law governing railroad safety, despite the fact that Congress specifically reiterated that the provision does no such thing less than two months ago. According to the Congressional Conference Report the provision, “does not preempt State law causes of action where a party has failed to comply with the Federal standard of care.” The FRA’s attempt to claim otherwise is tantamount to an Administration declaration of the power to regulate with the force of law without regard to the will of Congress.
“President Bush is blatantly ignoring the law passed by Congress just weeks ago,” said Haber, “Unless stricken from the final rule, this preemptive language will only serve the interests of corporate wrongdoers looking to evade accountability for risking the lives of millions of people on our nation’s railroads.”
A copy of AAJ’s Petition for Reconsideration and the Congressional letters demanding the removal of the pre-emption language are available upon request.