Supreme Court hears arguments in immigration, maritime asbestos cases

Supreme Court hears arguments in immigration, maritime asbestos cases

The US Supreme Court on Wednesday heard arguments in two cases, one of which challenges the detention provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and the other concerning maritime asbestos injuries.

In the first case, Nielson v. Preap, the court is asked to determine: “Whether a criminal alien becomes exempt from mandatory detention under [INA] if, after the alien is released from criminal custody, the Department of Homeland Security [DHS] does not take him into immigration custody immediately.”

Subsection (c)(1) of the Act states: “The Attorney General shall take into custody any alien who … ” is deportable or inadmissible for reasons related to offenses pending removal proceedings. The government argues that the provision mandates immediate arrest of such persons, but that “immediate” means DHS shall take into custody as soon as they are able to.

The respondents are individuals “who have served criminal sentences but who [were] not in criminal custody at the time that the government initiate[d] removal proceedings against them.” In fact, they had been released from custody long before the removal proceedings began against them. Their argument is that individuals released from criminal custody who have a pending removal proceeding, shall be immediately taken into DHS custody. Those who are not immediately taken into DHS custody shall have a hearing when they eventually are taken into custody for removal proceedings.

In the second case, Air and Liquid Systems Corp. v. Devries, the question before the court is: “Can products-liability defendants be held liable under maritime law for injuries caused by products that they did not make, sell, or distribute?”

The respondents are a group of Navy sailors who worked with asbestos containing equipment and suffer from asbestos poisoning. The petitioner is a company that made much of the equipment but which did not add the asbestos to the equipment. Rather a third-party added the asbestos after the petitioner sent the equipment to the Navy, but the petitioner knew the equipment could not function without asbestos insulation.

The court has held that maritime negligence falls on the foreseeability of the harm. The petitioner argues that it should not be liable for the asbestos injuries when it sold non-asbestos containing equipment to the Navy: “Petitioners had no duty to warn about asbestos added to their equipment years or even decades after its sale.  That follows from a well-established tort law principle, manufacturers are not liable for injuries caused by third-party goods.”

The respondents argue that under the court’s precedent regarding foreseeability, the petitioner should have easily foresaw the Navy men would be harmed by the equipment. The liability claim hinges on a failure to warn about the dangers, which respondent contends directly aligns with the court’s foreseeability rule: “if you make a product and the ordinary use or maintenance of that product is going to cause a harm that you know about, then you need to warn about that.”