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The court concludes that a public liability action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.S. § 2014(hh) is the sole cause of action for a plaintiff seeking damages for exposure to radiation from a federally licensed nuclear facility. Such conclusion, however, does not necessarily dispose of Plaintiffs' claims for relief pursuant to state law theories of liability. Instead, state law substantive rules of decision apply, and only those theories of relief that are inconsistent with federal law need be dismissed.
Plaintiffs, several University of Southern Maine students, were invited to tour the facility of defendant Maine Yankee Atomic Power Company. They filed a common law negligence, negligent and emotional infliction of emotional distress, strict liability, fraud, battery, failure to meet safety reporting requirements, and federal liability action against defendant for injuries they allegedly sustained after being exposed to radiation when touring defendant’s nuclear power plain in Maine. Plaintiffs’ complaint alleged that two weeks before their tour there was a radioactive gas leak, while they were on the tour the leak was being repaired, they were taken to parts of the plant where there were radioactive gases, and they were never advised of the dangers before or after the tour. The plaintiffs also contended that they were never advised to shower or remove their contaminated clothing, given urinalysis, or provided with proper readings of their exposures. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that plaintiffs’ claims asserting state law theories of recovery should be dismissed.
Should plaintiffs’ claims asserting state law theories of recovery be dismissed?
No, only those theories of relief that are inconsistent with federal law need to be dismissed.
The court held that the public liability action pursuant to 42 U.S.C.S. § 2014(hh) applied and was the sole cause of action for the students who sought damages for exposure to radiation from a federally licensed nuclear facility. Such conclusion, however, did not necessarily dispose of plaintiffs’ claims for relief pursuant to state law theories of liability. The court then held the regulations that were in effect on the date the incident occurred applied and that the occupational dose limits set forth at 10 C.F.R §§ 20.120--20.1208 articulated the proper standard of care. The court granted the company's motion to dismiss on the issue of strict liability, as it was inconsistent with federal regulatory schemes, and failure to meet state safety requirements, as there was no civil action for such failure.