West Virginia Refuses To Hear Railroad Asbestos Cases

The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals rejected a claim by a Pittsburgh attorney that the US Constitution allows any US citizen to file suit in West Virginia, and upheld the dismissal of more than 1000 lawsuits against CSX and Norfolk Southern that had been filed in West Virginia courts. The Pittsburgh law firm of Robert Pierce and Associates had filed the suits in various West Virginia courts, representing more than 1000 railroad workers who alleged asbestos exposure during their time working for CSX and Norfolk Southern. The plaintiffs based their claim on a 2006 decision, Morris v. Crown Equipment, which had granted West Virginia jurisdiction over a dispute in another state.

The suits were consolidated and assigned to Circuit Judge Arthur Recht, who ruled that the Morris case was not applicable, as in Morris the defendants included at least one corporation headquartered in West Virginia. Neither CSX nor Norfolk Southern are West Virginia firms, and Recht dismissed the suits. The Supreme Court of Appeals upheld Recht’s ruling, stating that no federal law required that the West Virginia courts take jurisdiction over the railroad workers’ asbestos suits.