BNSF Railway Co v. Seats Inc – 5/5/2015

June 12, 2015

Arizona Court of Appeals Division One holds that the federal Locomotive Inspection Act does not preempt state-law claims that are based on a failure to meet federal standards of care.

A conductor employed by BNSF Railway Company filed suit under the Federal Employees Liability Act (“FELA”) alleging that he sustained injuries from an unsafe seat on the locomotive.  The conductor joined Seats Inc., the manufacturer of the allegedly defective seat, as a defendant and BNSF filed cross-claims against Seats for indemnification and contribution.  Seats moved to dismiss the complaint and cross-claims on the basis of federal preemption.  The superior court granted Seats’ motion to dismiss.  BNSF timely appealed.

The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded.  The Locomotive Inspection Act (“LIA”) and its implementing regulations set forth the standard of care governing locomotive manufacturers and carriers.  The LIA preempts state common-law duties and standards of care related to locomotive equipment.  Although the LIA preempts state-law claims based on state-law standards of care, the Court of Appeals held that the LIA does not preempt BNSF’s state-law contribution and indemnification claims against Seats Inc. because the claims are premised on the federal standard of care established in the LIA.

Judge Cattani authored the opinion; Judges Winthrop and Swann concurred.