O’Melveny’s US Supreme Court Victory in Kurns v. Railroad Friction Corp. Covered by Multiple Media Outlets

March 01, 2012

O’Melveny’s US Supreme Court victory for Viad Corp. in a federal preemption case with potentially significant consequences for preemption of asbestos-related and other tort claims was covered by Mealey’s Litigation Report and Law360 on February 29 and March 1, 2012, respectively.

In Kurns v. Railroad Friction Products Corp., the Court affirmed a lower court ruling for O’Melveny’s client Viad Corp., agreeing with O’Melveny that design-defect and failure-to-warn claims challenging the use of asbestos in locomotives manufactured more than 50 years ago could not proceed because a federal statute called the Locomotive Inspection Act gave the Federal Railroad Administration the exclusive authority to regulate the design, material, and construction of locomotives.  The decision also reaffirms the doctrine of “field preemption,” which was attacked by the plaintiff and several amicus groups, ensuring that this important principle of federal-law supremacy continues to preclude localized, disparate regulation of areas Congress intended to leave exclusively in the federal regulatory domain. Additional information about the case and ruling is available in the Firm’s press release.


O’Melveny partner and Supreme Court and Appellate Practice Chair Jonathan Hacker argued the case before the Supreme Court. Counsel Anton Metlitsky and associate Joanna Nairn authored the certiorari-stage and merits briefs with him.