Supreme Court Preempts State Laws and Lawsuits

The Supreme Court has just decided three cases ruling that federal law preempts contrary or conflicting state laws.

It limited the ability to sue over devices approved by the FDA after a safety and effectiveness review, in an 8-to-1 vote, in Riegel v. Medtronic.

It unanimously held that a federal transportation law, the FAAAA, bars states from controlling the commercial delivery of tobacco, barring application of a Maine law that prevented private delivery services (but not the U.S. post office) from delivering cigarettes absent age-verification procedures that are more burdensome than those currently used by shippers like FedEx and UPS, in its decision in Rowe v. New Hampshire Motor Transport Association.

(Ironically, the Post Office takes fewer precautions against minors receiving cigarettes than private delivery services often do, and the latter often have more sophisticated prevention systems. “The Post Office does not provide an age verification option (although UPS does).” At oral argument, The State’s lawyer “conceded that the state’s inability to enforce the statute against the Postal Service thus creates a loophole for illegal tobacco shipment that can be closed only by congressional action.”)

And in Preston v. Ferrer, the Court ruled 8-1 that federal law prevents the referral of a dispute that the parties agreed to arbitrate to an initial review by an administrative agency under state law. Just as state laws that divert an arbitral dispute to an initial court review are preempted by the Federal Arbitration Act, so are laws that mandate an administrative review first, the Court ruled.