Foley, Baron & Metzger, PLLC Sets New Precedent In Sixth Circuit


DETROIT, June 15 /PRNewswire/ -- Foley, Baron & Metzger, PLLC (FBM), a leading Detroit area law firm, recently set a new precedent regarding federal jurisdiction based on the governmental contractor defense. The ruling established that the governmental contractor defense is not limited to military contractors.

FBM represented MIS Corporation (MIS), an environmental remediation contractor, hired by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to remediate mold contaminating the Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport Air Traffic Control Tower (DTW-ATCT). Several DTW air traffic controllers employed by the FAA claimed they had become ill from exposure to toxic mold. They filed lawsuits against the FAA, which were dismissed due to workers' compensation protection for the government.  

The air traffic controllers then sued MIS and other mold and environmental consultants in Wayne County Circuit Court, alleging that MIS and other defendants were negligent in proper elimination of mold in the air traffic control tower.

FBM attorneys Richard S. Baron and Brian H. Phinney removed the lawsuit to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on the grounds that MIS was a federal contractor and therefore was entitled to present its defenses in a federal forum. FBM also filed a motion to dismiss on the basis that MIS was contracted by the FAA and conducted work in accordance with detailed directives, and it owed no separate and distinct duty to the plaintiffs. The District Court agreed and dismissed the lawsuit following the Michigan Supreme Court's ruling in Fultz v. Union-Commerce Associates.

The plaintiffs appealed these rulings in the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and, after a lengthy hearing, the Sixth Circuit held that MIS was entitled to rely on the governmental contractor defense. This was an issue of first impression in the Sixth Circuit, which held that the governmental contractor defense should be broadly interpreted to protect a wide range of government contractors, not only those that provide services to the military. The Sixth Circuit further upheld the District Court's dismissal of the lawsuit pursuant to Fultz.

MIS' counsel, Richard Baron of Foley, Baron & Metzger, PLLC, expressed his satisfaction with the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling, stating, "Companies that provide products and services to the federal government should be able to defend themselves in federal court. This ruling has broad implications for manufacturers, distributors and consultants doing business with the federal government."

Foley, Baron & Metzger, PLLC, headquartered in the Detroit, Ann Arbor, Michigan area, is a broad-service law firm providing environmental, products and corporate legal services throughout the United States.

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