The U. S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a case concerning the scope of federal regulations preempting higher standards under state health, safety and tort laws. Preemption is the principle that a federal law can supersede or supplant any inconsistent state law or regulation. When preemption occurs, state law on a given subject is invalidated and the federal law substituted in its place.

Some federal statutes clearly state that regulations issued pursuant to the statutes will preempt any contradictory state laws, while some clearly state that the federal standards define a national minimum standard that states may exceed.  Other statutes are silent about preemption, preemption comes about through federal agencies claiming preemption in their regulations, or by courts implying preemption.

Under the Bush administration, a wide variety of federal agencies have taken the position that their regulations preempt all state laws and tort claims where manufacturers and other corporations comply with minimal federal regulations.  Sometimes those regulations are ghost-written by industry lobbyists to meet the minimum level to which even the least safety conscious already comply.  By setting the standard that low, and preempting any legal claims that there should be greater attention to safety, the regulators remove the economic incentives for safety that have been provided by products liability litigation. 

The specific case the Supreme Court has agreed to hear involves medical devices.  However, the issues is much broader, involving everything from pharmaceuticals to railroad safety to auto safety. 

It is noteworthy that not all Republicans follow the Bush administration’s line on this issue. Fred Thompson, a former Tennessee Senator and prospective Presidential candidate, recently wrote an article critical of federal regulations preempting state laws, on the basis of the conservative constitutional principle of federalism. 

The Shigley Law Firm  represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a "SuperLawyer" in Atlanta Magazine and one of the "Legal Elite" in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, Chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and former chair of the Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck wrecks and accidents (tractor trailers truck wrecks, semi truck wrecks,18 wheeler truck wrecks, big rig truck wrecks, log truck wrecks, dump truck wrecks.