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Setliff Law wins significant Motion for Summary Judgment in FELA case

(Annapolis, MD – January) In a notably favorable opinion handed down by the US District Court for the Division of Maryland, the Court granted CSXT a Motion for Summary Judgment , dismissing completely the Plaintiff’s claim he was injured on the job because of CSXT’s negligence.

Plaintiff, a CSXT boilermaker, claimed that he was injured while working with an electrician to change the batteries in four locomotives located in the Cumberland, Maryland Car Shop. While changing one of the batteries, Plaintiff dropped a battery cover on his foot, fracturing his navicular bone and necessitating surgery. He then brought a claim against CSXT alleging that CSXT failed to provide him sufficient assistance to perform his work, failed to provide proper tools and equipment, and discouraged employees from asking for assistance with job tasks.

Defense of the claim, handled by Setliff Law partner J. Christopher Nosher and associate Cheryl L. Hitzel, focused on the argument that Plaintiff’s own negligence was the cause of his injury and this concept was fully developed during Plaintiff’s deposition. During the deposition, it became clear that although Plaintiff was assigned an electrician to assist him in his job, he proceeded by himself when his partner didn’t return from his break. It also became clear that Plaintiff didn’t seek out his partner, or anybody else who could provide assistance in his partner’s stead. Further questioning revealed Plaintiff’s allegations that CSXT discouraged requests for assistance were grounded in supposition and unfounded.

Nosher and Hitzel moved for summary judgment on the ground that Plaintiff’s own acts were the sole cause of his injuries, and the Court agreed, stating “Plaintiff [had[ personal responsibility for the risk he knew in proceeding alone,  a risk he took.” The Court favorably recognized CSXT’s empowerment of its employees, noting that Plaintiff acknowledged in his deposition “that the company rule books provide that if there’s a job that an employee believes is unsafe that employee has the absolute right not to do it.” The Court additionally focused on Plaintiff’s failure to seek assistance with the task, as well as the fact Plaintiff admitted in his deposition that he “denied ever filing any Unsafe Condition Reports or any other written report or complaint with the company, or bringing the concern to the safety committee meetings.” The Court found that this failure to report problems anywhere regarding removal of battery covers was contrary to his allegations that the procedure was unsafe or had been inappropriately managed by CSXT in the past.

Ultimately the Court agreed with CSXT that Plaintiff’s injury was caused solely by his own acts and that “[t]here are no facts allowing him to ‘shift the blame’ to CSXT and establish its negligence.” The Court granted CSXT’s Motion for Summary Judgment and dismissed Plaintiff’s claim.    

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Setliff Law, P.C. focuses primarily on transportation and product liability law, but the firm’s attorneys also have extensive experience in insurance coverage disputes, business and commercial litigation, toxic tort litigation, commercial landlord/tenant litigation, eminent domain, contract disputes, subrogation, general personal injury, property damage matters, school and school employee liability, and insurance defense.

To contact Setliff Law in Virginia, call (804) 377-1260, and in Maryland, call (443) 837-6800, or visit the website at setliffholland.com.