Forum at issue in appellate court's dismissal of FELA case

Steve Gonzalez Nov. 8, 2005, 4:44pm

Appellate Justice Stephen McGlynn

A Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) lawsuit filed in Madison County by a Liberty, Mo. railroad worker was tossed on appeal because of improper forum.

In a 2-1 decision released Tuesday, Fifth District Appellate Court Judge Stephen McGlynn wrote that Patrick K. McGinty's brief travels through Madison County "stretches the bounds" for appropriate venue.

McGinty filed suit against Norfolk Southern in 2003 alleging repetitive-trauma injuries to his back, neck, shoulders, and knees. He claimed his injuries occurred over the 30-year duration of his employment with Norfolk Southern.

“At no time during his Norfolk Southern employment did McGinty live in Madison County or anywhere else in Illinois," McGlynn wrote. "McGinty alleges that there was a brief period of time during which he performed Norfolk Southern work in Madison County."

In September of 2004, Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian denied Norfolk’s motion to dismiss the suit leading to Norfolk's appeal. It argued that there is no connection between the claim filed and Madison County. Under the doctrine of interstate forum non conveniens, the claim should have been dismissed, Norfolk argued.

"In essence, McGinty claims that because his injuries are of a repetitive type and because he did work at least some period of time in Madison County, at least some of his injuries occurred in Madison County," McGlynn wrote. "During his deposition, McGinty was unable to specifically tie his injuries to any one accident, incident, or other reportable condition that occurred during his Madison County employment.

“If we accept this theory, as the trial court did, then no matter how remote in time the employment at issue was, the 'injury' occurred in Madison County.

"We believe that this stretches the bounds of the forum non conveniens doctrine and cannot, at least in this situation, be solely utilized to fix Madison County as an appropriate forum.”

Appellate Judge Thomas Welch concurred with McGlynn.

However, Judge James Donovan dissented from the majority stating, “The citizens of Missouri and Illinois appear to have equal interests in ensuring that both parties receive a fair trial.

"The citizens of each state share an interest in seeing that corporate guests who conduct business in their respective states behave responsibly. If a worker is injured in Illinois as a result of the alleged negligence of its corporate guest, the citizens of Illinois have an interest in deciding the controversy and in awarding fair compensation should the allegations prove true."

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