Federal Rules Give Railroads Complete Immunity

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Federal Rules Give Railroads Complete Immunity 

For Immediate Release: May 29, 2008

Contact:  Amaya Smith
202.965.3500, ext. 8369

Washington, DC—New rules issued by the Federal Railroad Administration and Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration would give negligent corporations complete immunity from lawsuits in railroad injury cases, according to testimony given today before the agencies.

Since January 2005, federal agencies have exceeded Congressional authority by issuing 51 rules that preempt state law. American Association for Justice (AAJ) regulatory counsel Gerie Voss and AAJ member Dan O'Fallon will testify that Congress never intended for federal agency rules to preempt state law claims. Dan O'Fallon will also discuss how negligent railroads tried to use preemption to invalidate claims made by the victims of the Minot, North Dakota derailment.

Federal regulatory preemption allows corporations to receive complete immunity and escape accountability even when they knowingly injure and endanger consumers with unsafe products.

Federal regulation is meant to provide a minimal standard of safety for food, drugs, cars, medical devices and railroads. Under a little known doctrine called preemption, there has been an attempt to erode consumer rights by quietly using federal rules to preempt state lawsuits.

"Preemption is a 'get out of jail free card' for corporations which put consumers at risk and try to avoid accountability," said American Association for Justice President Kathleen Flynn Peterson. "Federal regulations and state law should work together to make consumers safer. States have a right to ensure the safety of their residents when dealing with railroads that transport hazardous and deadly materials."

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