Sprietsma's claim was in fact preempted by the FBSA. (27) Nor were the Illinois courts alone: the Fifth, (28) Eighth, (29) and Eleventh (30) Circuits, as well as the Michigan Supreme Court, (31) had held the same.
Many federal statutes have express preemption clauses like the one in the FBSA. When such a clause is present, it is clear Congress intended to preempt some state law.
For example, the first question presented in Sprietsma was whether the duty alleged in the tort claim was a "law or regulation" as those terms are used in the FBSA. (41) The same question arises under FIFRA: given that FIFRA's express preemption clause preempts state labeling "requirements," does FIFRA also preempt tort claims related to pesticide labels, such as a claim for breach of warranty or failure to warn?
Of course, even discounting the Court's history, of erratic holdings on preemption, the ruling against preemption by the FBSA does not compel the same outcome for FIFRA: the language and structure of the two Acts are of course different.
The Sprietsma Court stated that the FBSA's saving clause "buttresse[d]" its conclusion, suggesting that the clause was not necessary to the Court's conclusion.
Supreme Court to decide whether the FBSA or the Coast Guard decision not to require propeller guards preempted the state lawsuit.
In a unanimous opinion by Justice John Paul Stevens, the Court held that the express preemption clause of the FBSA did not preempt the suit, and that the Coast Guard had not intended to preclude claims for damages involving specific products.
The Court acknowledged the FBSA's stated purpose to encourage greater "uniformity of boating laws and regulations as among the several states and the federal government." But this goal "is not unyielding," Stevens wrote.
The FBSA contains an express preemption clause that applies to state and local regulation, which the Court interpreted as "most naturally read as not encompassing common law claims." But a savings clause states that compliance "does not relieve a person from liability at common law or under state law."
* According to [sections] 4302, regulations promulgated under the FBSA are only for minimum safety standards.
* The legislative history reveals that Congress, in enacting the FBSA, did not intend to exclude all common law claims under the act.(22)