Supreme Court of Pennsylvania Denies Constitutionality Appeal of Asbestos-Related Liability Regulatory Statute

On September 29, 2015, the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania denied the appeal of the executor of the estate of James Markovsky.  Markovsky, who had argued that a statute regulating asbestos-related liability should be found unconstitutional, had petitioned for appeal after the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a grant of summary judgment in favor of Crown Cork & Seal Co.

Originally, on October 6, 2011, Markovsky filed a complaint against Crown alleging that he contracted mesothelioma as a result of exposure to the asbestos products of Mundet, Crown’s predecessor-in-interest.  More specifically, Markovsky alleged “he was exposed to asbestos fiber or asbestos products manufactured, sold, distributed, or otherwise placed into the stream of commerce by [Crown].”

Accordingly, Crown moved for summary judgment under 15 Pa.C.S. § 1929.1, limitations on asbestos-related liabilities relating to certain mergers or consolidations.  In response, Markovsky argued that Section 1929.1 was unconstitutional because it violated the Pennsylvania Constitution, the dormant Commerce Clause under the United States Constitution, and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Markovsky further argued that the manner in which legislation containing Section 1929.1 was enacted was constitutionally flawed, challenging the legislation on the basis of the original purpose and single subject sections of the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Ultimately, the Superior Court agreed with the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, dismissing the constitutional arguments as unpersuasive and finding that the statute was not per se unconstitutional because it did not contain an apparent class consisting of one member that is closed or substantially closed to future membership.  Additionally, the Superior Court affirmed the trial court’s finding that the Act’s original purpose was to regulate asbestos-related liability and that the single subject is the same as its original purpose, thus satisfying the requirements under the Pennsylvania Constitution.

Read the full decision here.

Read the Supreme Court denial here.