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Case Law - Gordon-Elias.com



Federal Circuits' & State Decisions | Jones Act Issues, Questions and Answers | Maritime Case Law



 



In re Ricky Joe Jones, Cheryl Ann Jones, Debtors
Date Decided: Jan 25th, 2011
Decided By: U.S. Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit(Bankruptcy) (Federal)
Court: United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Kansas
Citation: 446 B.R 466

Background:

Ricky Joe Jones ("Jones") was severely injured while employed by Kansas City Southern Railway ("KCS"). He brought a FELA claim in 1987 alleging KCS was negligent and sought damages for a permanent disability. The parties ultimately settled the suit, whereby KCS agreed to pay Jones monthly payments of $700, and increasing lump sum payments every 5 years. Per the settlement agreement, payments owed to Jones pursuant to the Railroad Retirement Act ("RRA"), 45 U.S.C. § 231a were reduced, and Jones waived his seniority rights and future employment with KCS.

In 1998, Jones and his spouse ("Debtors") sold the rights to all of the lump sum payments with the exception of one $200,000 payment due in 2023. In 2001, Debtors filed for bankruptcy. Debtors informed their bankruptcy council of the $200,000 payment, but failed to disclose it for the purposes of the bankruptcy proceedings.

In 2003, Debtors attempted to sell the rights to the $200,000 payment. The potential buyer informed the bankruptcy Trustee and the Trustee filed a motion to reopen the bankruptcy proceedings. The Trustee sought to include the $200,000 payment into the schedule of assets available to creditors. In response, Debtors claimed the remaining payment was exempt.

The Trustee objected to Debtors' exemption. Trustee claims that the settlement was for personal injury, which proceeds are not exempt under Kansas state law. Additionally, it claims the exemptions for disability benefits and employment-related benefits under the bankruptcy code do not apply to Debtors' settlement.

Debtors argue that the injury disabled Jones, thus the settlement should be exempt because it was a disability benefit under the bankruptcy code. 


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Leandrew Lewis v. CSX Transportation, Inc.
Date Decided: Mar 10th, 2011
Decided By: Ohio Southern District Court (Federal)
Court: United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio
Citation: 778 F.Supp.2d 821

Background:

Leandrew Lewis ("Lewis") filed suit against his employer CSX Transportation ("CSX") under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. In the complaint, Lewis alleged that throughout the course of his employment with CSX, he sustained injuries to his wrists that led to carpal tunnel syndrome and that the injuries were caused by CSX's negligence.

CSX answered by denying the allegations and filed a Motion for Summary Judgment. CSX argues that Lewis' claim is barred by the statute of limitations, and in the alternative, that Lewis lacks sufficient evidence to succeed on the merits of his claim.


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Brad Boyd v. CSX Transportation, Inc.
Date Decided: Mar 7th, 2011
Decided By: Indiana Northern District Court (Federal)
Court: United States District Court for the Northern District of Indiana
Citation: 2011 WL 854350

Background:

This case arose out of injuries Brad Boyd ("Boyd") allegedly sustained between 2005 and 2007 while employed by CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX").

Boyd began his employment with CSX in 1999 where he worked as a brakeman and conductor. These positions required Boyd to throw switches to facilitate loading and unloading of trains in CSX rail yards. In 2005, Boyd became a road engineer and worked in this position until 2007. Here, Boyd was required to ride trains between Avon, Indiana, and Cincinnati, Ohio where a portion of the trip was over "rough track."

In 2010, Boyd brought a negligence action against CSX under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. Boyd sought damages to compensate him for injuries he alleges he sustained as a result of exposure to excessive whole-body vibration.

In the complaint, Boyd alleges that CSX violated the Locomotive Inspection Act ("LIA"), 49 U.S.C. §§ 20701-20703 by failing to provide locomotives in a proper condition and safe to operate with unnecessary peril to life or limb, and the Federal Track Safety Standards ("FTSS"), 49 C.F.R. § 213 et seq. by failing to properly maintain its tracks.

In support of his allegations, Boyd presented experts Alan Blackwell ("Blackwell") and Paul Byrnes ("Byrnes") who testified that the stretches of track Boyd was exposed to failed to comply with the FTSS. Boyd also presented Dr. Dennis Gates ("Dr. Gates") who testified Boyd's degenerative disc disease was aggravated by the vibrations he was subject to during his trips between Avon and Cincinnati.

Before the Court is CSX's Motion to Exclude the testimony of Dr. Gates and its Motion for Summary Judgment. CSX argues that Dr. Gates' testimony regarding the cause of Boyd's injury is inadmissible under Federal Rule of Evidence 702 and as a result, Boyd cannot survive its Motion for Summary Judgment.


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Earl L. Irwin v. CSX Transportation, Inc.
Date Decided: Mar 16th, 2011
Decided By: Tennessee Eastern District Court (Federal)
Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee
Citation: 2011 WL 976376

Background:

Earl L. Irwin ("Irwin") filed a complaint in the Circuit Court for Knox County, Tennessee pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. § 51, et seq. Irwin alleged he was exposed to toxic substances including radiation and radioactive substances while employed by CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX"). Irwin developed disease processes and cancer as a result of this exposure.

CSX removed the case to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee on the assertion that the Court has original jurisdiction pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act ("AEA") and its amendments under the Price-Anderson Act ("PAA"). CSX concludes that Irwin's exposure to radiation must have occurred at the Oak Ridge, Tennessee nuclear facilities making it a "nuclear incident" under the PAA, and entitling CSX to jurisdiction in federal court.

Before the Court is Irwin's Motion to Remand the case to state court.


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Jeff Leighton v. CSX Transportation, Inc.
Date Decided: Mar 11th, 2011
Decided By: Kentucky Court of Appeals (State)
Court: Court of Appeals of Kentucky
Citation: 338 S.W.3d 818

Background:

Jeff Leighton ("Leighton") appeals a lower court's denial of his motion for a new trial.

Leighton filed suit against his employer, CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX") under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. for injuries he sustained in the course of his employment. He sought damages for medical expenses and lost employment benefits.

As a result of his injuries, Leighton incurred approximately $11,000 in medical bills. CSX paid all but $3,000 Leighton's medical bills per their obligation under The Railroad Employees National Health and Welfare Plan ("the Plan").

At trial, both parties filed motions in limine seeking to exclude evidence of medical expenses paid to Leighton. Leighton wanted the trial court to exclude any evidence that he received payments from insurers or other collateral sources (the $8,000 paid by CSX), and CSX wanted to limit evidence of Leighton's medical expenses to those he paid out-of-pocket (the remaining $3,000).

The trial court "struck a balance," ruling Leighton would be able to offer his total medical expenses into evidence ($11,000), but that the court would instruct the jury that Leighton could only be awarded $3,000 in medical expenses (his out-of-pocket expenses).

The jury returned a verdict for Leighton, awarding $3,000 in medical expenses and $5,200 in lost employment benefits. However, the Court found Leighton partially at fault for his injuries and reduced the award to $4,300.

Leighton filed a motion for a new trial arguing the jury instruction limiting his award of medical expenses was in violation of the collateral source rule under FELA. The trial court denied his motion and Leighton appealed to the Court of Appeals of Kentucky.


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James L. Varner v. BNSF Railway Co.
Date Decided: Mar 4th, 2011
Decided By: South Dakota District Court (Federal)
Court: United States District Court for the District of South Dakota
Citation: 2011 WL 835887

Background:

This action arose out of injuries allegedly sustained by James L. Varner ("Varner") while attempting to move a deer carcass off railroad tracks located near Edgemont, South Dakota.

Varner brought a negligence action against his employer BNSF Railway Co. ("BNSF") under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. § 51 seeking damages for past and future economic and non-economic losses.

Following discovery, BNSF filed a motion to exclude the testimony of Dr. Michael D. Shinnick ("Dr. Shinnick"), an expert in the field of ergonomic safety in the workplace. The Court ordered a Daubert hearing to resolve BNSF's motion and the parties agreed to schedule the hearing for December 30, 2010.

Dr. Shinnick was unavailable to attend the scheduled Daubert hearing. Varner's counsel, G. Michael O'Neal ("O'Neal"), explained that Dr. Shinnick informed him one week before the hearing that he would not be able to attend, and that he did not inform the Court because he thought the time could be used to conduct a "status conference." O'Neal also requested the Court go forward with the hearing on the basis of briefs and depositions. The Court denied his request stating that the purpose of the Daubert hearing was frustrated by Dr. Shinnick's absence. As a result, the Court was forced to reschedule the hearing for March 16, 2011.

BNSF then filed a motion for costs, expenses and attorney fees reasonably incurred as a result of the multiplication of the Daubert hearing. Varner failed to file a timely response. 


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Andrew L. Neloms, Jr. v. BNSF Railway Co.
Date Decided: Mar 17th, 2011
Decided By: Texas 2nd District Court of Appeals (State)
Court: Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District
Citation: 2011 WL 944434

Background:

Andrew L. Neloms ("Neloms") worked for BNSF Railway Co. ("BNSF") as a conductor. On October 19, 2004 Neloms suffered injuries to his hand when he tripped over a partially buried tie plate at BNSF's Clear Creek railroad yard.

Neloms filed suit against BNSF under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. alleging BNSF was negligent and seeking damages for lost wages and physical injury. The case proceeded to trial.

Following the close of arguments, the trial court instructed the jury as to the applicable standard of causation in a FELA negligence action. In relevant part, the instruction stated: "Negligence is a legal cause of damage if it played any part, no matter how small, in bringing about or actually causing the injury or damage."

The jury returned a verdict for BNSF and judgment was entered accordingly. Neloms appeals the verdict arguing the trial court failed to instruct the jury as to the appropriate FELA causation standard. 


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Shane M. Bean v. South Carolina Central Railroad Co., Inc.
Date Decided: Mar 2nd, 2011 Decided By: South Carolina Court of Appeals (State) Court: Court of Appeals of South Carolina Citation: 709 S.E.2d 99 Background: In August 2004, Shane M. Bean ("Bean") was injured while dismounting from a stationary locomotive. Bean was diagnosed with a torn ACL in his right knee, underwent surgery, and returned to work three months later. In March 2005 Bean required additional surgery for his knee and during his recovery suffered a fall that shattered his knee cap requiring yet another surgery. Bean's employer South Carolina Central Railroad Co., Inc. ("SCCR") paid all of Bean's medical bills and lost wages until he was cleared to return to work in September of 2005. Thereafter, pursuant to a disability certificate provided by his doctor, Bean's duties were restricted to engine duty with some light ground work to reduce the risk of aggravating his injury. Bean began settlement negotiations for his injury with SCCR claims representative Bill Monroe ("Monroe") in June of 2006. As a result of the settlement negotiations, Bean signed a "General Release and Final Settlement" ("the Release") releasing SCCR from all claims of liability for the injury. Monroe told Bean that he was not able to include any language regarding a permanent work restriction in the release, but that SCCR would "work with" Bean to accommodate his injury. Bean signed the Release knowing it contained no permanent work restriction and received $75,000 via the terms of the settlement. In the ten months following the settlement, Bean continued to perform engine duty with some light ground work without incident. In April 2007, Bean left for a week's vacation and upon his return discovered that he had been re-assigned to a conductor's job. Bean complained that his condition prohibited him from performing the more rigorous conductor's work. SCCR then asked Bean to supply them with a full medical release clarifying his condition. Upon receipt of that document, SCCR provided Bean with a "return-to-work" agreement. The agreement stated that Bean would be able to return to work and perform engine duty with some light ground work, but that Bean would continue to perform conductor's work in the "short-term" and in "emergency situations." Bean refused to sign the agreement because he thought it was vague as to how long he would need to work as a conductor. Bean did not return to work for SCCR, and in May 2007 was terminated for job abandonment. In August 2007, Bean filed a complaint against SCCR for negligence pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 42 U.S.C. § 51, and for violations of the Locomotive Inspection Act ("LIA"), 49 U.S.C. 20701. SCCR filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing the Release Bean signed prevented him from asserting any personal injury claims against SCCR. Bean responded that the Release was void either for fraud, mutual mistake, or lack of consideration, and thus he should not be barred from bringing his negligence claim. The lower court granted SCCR's Motion for Summary Judgment on the grounds that the Release was validly executed and Bean appeals. Read More... [...]



Kevin Slaughter v. National Railroad Passenger Corp. a/k/a Amtrak
Date Decided: Mar 4th, 2011
Decided By: Pennsylvania Eastern Bankruptcy Court (Federal)
Court: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Citation: 2011 WL 780754

Background:

Kevin Slaughter ("Slaughter") filed suit against National Railroad Passenger Corp. ("Amtrak") pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 42 U.S.C. § 51 for injuries he sustained while working in an engine terminal located in Pennsylvania. Amtrak investigated the incident and created an Accident Investigation Report ("Report"). Amtrak provided Slaughter with a copy of the Report, but omitted a section entitled "Conclusions and Recommended Remedial/Corrective Actions" ("the Conclusions Section").

Before the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania is Slaughter's Motion to  Compel and Amtrak's Motion for Protective Order. Slaughter seeks to compel Amtrak to disclose a copy of the Conclusions Section. However, Amtrak contends that this information is privileged and should be excluded from discovery. 


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Timothy J. Nitecki v. CSX Transportation, Inc.
Date Decided: Feb 23rd, 2011
Decided By: Ohio Northern District Court (Federal)
Court: United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio, Western Division
Citation: 2011 WL 723062

Background:

Timothy J. Nitecki ("Nitecki") brought a negligence action pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 42 U.S.C. § 56 against his employer CSX Transportation, Inc. ("CSX").

Nitecki worked at CSX's Stanley Yard facility in Walbridge, Ohio. While repairing a railroad brake retarder, Nitecki suffered an injury to his left arm which required three separate surgeries and time away from work.

A jury found both Nitecki and CSX were negligent, attributing 60% of the fault to Nitecki and 40% to CSX. The jury awarded $75,000 to Nitecki for past lost wages and $0 for pain and suffering. The award was reduced to $30,000 to account for each party's portion of fault.

Nitecki filed a Motion for a New Trial in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Ohio. Nitecki contends that the jury's award of $0 for pain and suffering goes against the manifest weight of the evidence, and that the lower court improperly allowed Nitecki's supervisor, Larry Lewis ("Lewis") to testify to the cause of the Nitecki's injuries.

This Court reviews Nitecki's Motion pursuant to Federal Civil Rule 59(a). Here, the Court will grant a new trial if the verdict regarding pain and suffering damages is against the weight of the evidence, and if there was substantial error in the admission of Lewis' testimony. 


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