In re Welding Fume Products Liability Litigation

Decision Date05 April 2005
Docket NumberMDL Docket No. 1535.,Case No. 1:03-CV-17000.
Citation364 F.Supp.2d 669
CourtU.S. District Court — Northern District of Ohio

Andrew S. Goldwasser, Phillip A. Ciano, Ciano & Goldwasser, Christina M. Janice, John R. Climaco, Climaco Lefkowitz Peca Wilcox & Garofoli, Cleveland, OH, D. Grant Kaiser, The Kaiser Firm, D. John Neese, John Eddie Williams, Jr., Williams Bailey Law Firm, LLP, Houston, TX, Daniel E. Becnel, Jr., Reserve, LA, Don Barrett, Richard R. Barrett, Barrett Law Office, Lexington, MS, Drew Ranier, Ranier, Gayle & Elliot, Lake Charles, LA, Frederick C. Baker, Joseph F. Rice, Motley Rice LLC, Mt. Pleasant, SC, Gano D. Lemoine III, Murray Law Firm, New Orleans, LA, James D. Shannon, Kelley M. Berry, Shannon Law Firm, Hazlehurst, MS, John T. Murray, Murray & Murray, Sandusky, OH, Matthew W. Willis, Walter Umphrey, Provost Umphrey Law Firm, Beaumont, TX, Mikal C. Watts, Watts & Heard, L.L.P., Russell T. Abney, Watts Law Firm, Corpus Christi, TX, Richard F. Scruggs, Sidney A. Backstrom, Scruggs Law Firm, Scott O. Nelson, Maples & Lomax, Pascagoula, MS, Roy F. Amedee, Jr., Attorney at Law, Laplace, LA, Robert E. Piper, Jr., Piper & Associates, Shreveport, LA, Ftemkos (Tim) J. Yianne, Bell & Bands, Charleston, WV, for Plaintiff.

David C. Landever, Weisman, Kennedy & Berris, Cleveland, OH, for Plaintiff/Defendants.

Michael W. Ulmer, Watkins & Eager, Gordan Urban Sanford, III, O. Stephen Montagnet, III, McCraney Nosef Montagnet & Sanford, Richard M. Edmonson, Armstrong Allen, Ross F. Bass, Jr., Christopher R. Shaw, William C. Brabec, Wilson H. Carroll, Phelps Dunbar, LLP, Cable Frost, Baker, Donelson, Bearman & Caldwell, Jack McCants, Sheila Bossier, Forman Perry Watkins Krutz & Tardy, M. Faith Risher, Thomas Y. Page, Page, Kruger & Holland, P.A., Jackson, MS, Ralph A. Davies, Davis, McFarland & Carroll, P.C., Pittsburgh, PA, Richard E. Sarver, Barrasso Usdin Kupperman Freeman Sarver, Paul L. Peyronnin, Roy C. Cheatwood, Christopher R. Teske, Phelps Dunbar, LLP, Wiliam B. Gaudet, Adams and Reese, David M. Melancon, James B. Irwin, Irwin Fritchie Urquhart & Moore LLC, Glenn L.M. Swetman, Aultman Tyner Ruffin & Yarborough, Ltd, Daniel W. Dilzell, Peter S. Koeppel, New Orleans, LA, Jessica D. Miller, Stephen J. Harburg, O'Melveny & Myers, George D. Ruttinger, Crowell & Moring, Rebecca A. Womeldorf, Katharine R. Latimer, Bonnie J. Semilof, Spriggs & Hollingsworth, David A. Handzo, Michael B. Desanctis, Jenner & Block, LLC, Sharon M. McGowan, Jenner & Block, LLC, Todd Eskelsen, Sonnenschein, Nath & Rosenthal, Joshua D. Wolson, Covington & Burling, Washington, DC, R.M. Patrick McDowell, R. David Kaufman, Randi C. Mueller, Charles McBride, Brunini Grantham Grower & Hewes, PLLC, Roy Campbell, Adams and Reese, Michael S. Minyard, Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell Berkowitz, C. York Craig, Jr., Jack R. Dodson III, Craig Hester Luke & Dodson, Silas W. Mccharen, Daniel Coker Horton & Bell, P.A., Richard F. Yarborough, Jr., Smith, Reeves & Yarborough, Jackson, MS, Eric Kennedy, Weisman, Kennedy & Berris, Horatio G. Mihet, Steven S. Kaufman, Thompson Hine, John J. Haggerty, Maria A. Citeroni, Yelena Boxer, Ulmer & Berne, Daniel F. Gourash, Robert D. Anderle, Porter, Wright, Morris & Arthur, John B. Stalzer, Reminger & Reminger, Kevin C. Alexandersen, Gallagher, Sharp, Fulton & Norman, John M. Alten, Ulmer & Berne, Cleveland, OH, Alan W. Brothers, Hubert O. Thompson, Ronald Austin, Jr., Brothers & Thompson, James W. Ozog, Richard J. Leamy, Jr., Wiedner & McAuliffe, Joseph F. Spitzzeri, Johnson & Bell, Anthony L. Abboud, Wildman, Harrold, Allen & Dixon, Christopher J. Murdoch, Holland & Knight, Chicago, IL, Michael R. Sistrunk, McCranie Sistrunk Anzelmo Hardy Maxwell, H. Patrick Rooney, Southern Legal Clinics, Steven Barth Witman, Valerie Theng Matherne, Metairie, LA, Joseph R. Ward, Jr., Ward & Suzanne Wright, McCranie Sistrunk Anzelmo Hardy Maxwell & McDaniel, Dana Anderson-Carson, Gary M. Zwain, Duplass, Zwain, Bourgeois & Morton, Gregg L. Spyridon, Michael W. Rutledge, Spyridon, Koch & Palermo, Metairie, LA, Condrey, Covington, LA, Clark R. Silcoz, Rosslyn, VA, David P. Stoeberl, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, John S. Sandberg, Mariquita L. Barbieri, Sandberg, Phoenix & Von Gontard, St. Louis, MO, Bradley J. Yeretsky, Brian D. Williams, Daniel Bukovac, Leonard J. Johnson, Stinson Morrison Hecker, Kansas City, MO, Kenneth J. Parsigian, U. Gwyn Williams, Goodwin Procter LLP, Dawn M. Perlman, Jennifer L. Conrad, Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault, Robert B. Lovett, Boston, MA, Mark A. Kinzie, Stinson Morrison Hecker, Matthew J. Eddy, Moser & Marsalek, P.C., St. Louis, MO, David M. Ott, Bryan Nelson Bruce McKinley, Copeland, Cook, Taylor & Bush, P.A., Ridgeland, MS, William B. McKinley, Copeland Cook Taylor & Bush Ridgeland, MS, Randolph, Raymond D. Carter, Hopkins, Barvie & Hopkins PLLC, Gulfport, MS, Hattiesburg, MS, Jennifer Valley, Columbia, MS, R. Dean Church, Jr., Johanna G. King, Gary A. Lee, Richard M. Perles, Lee, Futrell & Perles, Lee Putrell, Gordon P. Wilson, Kristopher T. Wilson, Ralph S. Hubbard III, Seth A. Schmeeckle, Lugenbuhl, Wheaton, Peck, Rankin & Hubbard, Lawrence E. Abbott, Abbott, Simses & Kuchler, New Orleans, LA, Mark R. Chilson, Young & Alexander, Dayton, OH, Jay M. Jalenak, Jr., Kean Miller Hawthorne D'Armond McCowan & Jarman, John D. Ziober, Kennon, Odom & Dardenne, Baton Rouge, LA, Gerardo H. Gonzalez, Gonzalez, Saggio & Harlan, Milwaukee, WI, Ewing E. Sikes, III, Royston, Rayzor, Vickery & Williams, Brownsville, TX, Charles Read, John H. Beisner, O'Melveny & Myers, Los Angeles, CA, Ross F. Lagarde, Abbott, Simses & Kuchler, Covington, LA, Jeremy R. Sayre, Ward & Smith, Raleigh, NC, Mary Alice Parsons, Ireson & Weisel, Houston, TX, for Defendants.


O'MALLEY, United States District Judge.

The plaintiffs in this Multi-District Litigation have filed lawsuits against various manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors of welding rod products, as well as related trade associations. The plaintiffs assert that the inhalation of manganese contained in the fumes given off by welding rods during the welding process caused them neurological injury and other harm, and that the defendants knew or should have known that the use of welding rods would cause these damages. The gravamen of the thousands of complaints that have been consolidated in this case is that the defendants "failed to warn" the plaintiffs of the health hazards posed by inhaling welding rod fumes containing manganese and, in fact, conspired to affirmatively conceal these hazards from those engaged in the welding process. Among other theories of liability, the plaintiffs assert claims for strict liability, negligence, fraud, and conspiracy.

Certain defendants1 have filed a motion to dismiss (docket no. 118), arguing that all of the plaintiffs' post-1985 claims premised on a failure to warn, regardless of how the claims are denominated, must be dismissed as a matter of law under the doctrine of federal pre-emption. Specifically, the defendants argue that the Hazard Communication Standard, 29 C.F.R. § 1910.1200, which was promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration ("OSHA"), pre-empts all state common law torts based on a failure to warn.2 For the reasons stated below, this motion is DENIED.

I. The OSH Act and the HazCom Standard.

In 1970, Congress enacted the Occupational Safety and Health Act ("OSH Act") 29 U.S.C. § 651 et seq. The purpose of the OSH Act was "to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources." 29 U.S.C. § 651(b). Among other mechanisms to achieve this purpose, Congress "authoriz[ed] the Secretary of Labor to set mandatory occupational safety and health standards applicable to businesses affecting interstate commerce." Id. § 651(b)(3). As the Supreme Court has recognized, Congress "thereby brought the Federal Government into a field that traditionally had been occupied by the States." Gade v. National Solid Wastes Management Ass'n, 505 U.S. 88, 96, 112 S.Ct. 2374, 120 L.Ed.2d 73 (1992).3

Recognizing that some States had, to varying degrees, already promulgated their own "occupational safety and health standards," Congress also enacted three provisions addressing the federalism implications of the OSH Act. First, Congress allowed the several States to take some or all of the OSH Act mission "in-house," under certain conditions:

Any State which, at any time, desires to assume responsibility for development and enforcement therein of occupational safety and health standards relating to any occupational safety or health issue with respect to which a Federal standard has been promulgated under section 655 of this title shall submit a State plan for the development of such standards and their enforcement.

Id. § 667(b). The Secretary of Labor could then approve or reject the State's plan. Id. § 667(c, d). Among other things, approval required that the State's standards, and enforcement thereof, "will be at least as effective in providing safe and healthful employment and places of employment as the standards promulgated under section 655 of [the OSH Act]." Id. § 667(c)(2).

Second, Congress added that "[n]othing in this chapter shall prevent any State agency or court from asserting jurisdiction under State law over any occupational safety or health issue with respect to which no standard is in effect under section 655 of [the OSH Act]." Id. § 667(a). For reasons explained below, even though § 667(a) does not use the term "pre-empt," the Court refers to it below as the OSH Act's "pre-emption provision." Read together with the first provision cited above, the general upshot of this clause is that States can set standards in areas where OSHA has not, but cannot set standards in areas where OSHA has,...

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    ...duties"].) Indeed, section 653(b)(4) has been interpreted as a uniquely broad savings clause ( In re Welding Fume Products Liability Litigation (N.D.Ohio 2005) 364 F.Supp.2d 669, 687, & fn. 21 ), and broad savings clauses may be seen as an indication that the field preempted is narrow. (See......
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