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U.S. Supreme Court to Hear TLPJ Boat Propeller Guard Case 

Fight Against Federal Preemption of Injury Victims' Rights Continues

The statue "Contemplation of Justice" (James Earl Fraser, sculptor) and  the west façade of the Supreme Court Building. Photo by Jonathan Hutson

On the morning of Tuesday, October 15, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral argument in TLPJ's boat propeller safety case, Sprietsma v. Mercury Marine. TLPJ Staff Attorney Leslie R. Brueckner will argue the federal preemption case, in which the Court will decide whether an injury victim can sue a boat engine manufacturer for failing to install a propeller guard on the engine of a recreational motor boat.

The Sprietsma case arose out of the tragic death of Jeanne Sprietsma, who was killed by the propeller of an outboard engine when she fell from a recreational motor boat. Her husband, Rex Sprietsma, sued Mercury Marine for his wife’s wrongful death. 

The Illinois Supreme Court held that such claims are preempted by the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 and by the U.S. Coast Guard's (USCG's) decision not to take any regulatory action with respect to propeller guards. The U.S. Supreme Court then granted TLPJ's petition for review.

TLPJ is not alone in this battle. Amicus briefs in support of TLPJ's position have been filed by 17 States and by the Solicitor General of the United States on behalf of the USCG and the U.S. government.

In addition to Brueckner, TLPJ's legal team in Sprietsma includes TLPJ Executive Director Arthur H. Bryant; TLPJ Staff Attorney Michael J. Quirk; Joseph A. Power, Jr.; Todd A. Smith and Devon C. Bruce of Chicago's Power, Rogers & Smith; and John B. Kralovec of Chicago's Kralovec, Jambois & Schwartz. TLPJ's briefs and the key amicus briefs in the case are available on TLPJ's web site at www.tlpj.org.

To download a Visitors' Guide to Oral Argument at the U.S. Supreme Court (PDF), click here.