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Federalism and Separation of Powers: Supreme Court 2002-2003 Term

By Tara Ross
October 01, 2003

Sprietsma v. Mercury Marine, 123 S. Ct. 518, 537 U.S. 51 (2002). Decided: Dec. 3, 2002. In 1995, Jeanne Sprietsma was killed when she fell from a motor boat and was struck by its propeller blades—the boat had not been equipped with a propeller guard. Sprietsma’s husband filed a wrongful death suit against the manufacturer of the boat, alleging that it was defectively designed because it did not include the guard. The Illinois Supreme Court affirmed a lower court dismissal of the case, holding that the Federal Boat Safety Act of 1971 (FBSA) preempted Sprietsma’s state common- law tort claims. The Supreme Court unanimously reversed the decision.