Norfolk wants Indiana man's FELA claim dismissed on forum non conveniens

Steve Gonzalez Oct. 1, 2008, 8:51am

Norfolk Southern Railway wants Madison County Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian to dismiss a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) suit based on the doctrine of forum non conveniens.

Represented by Kurt Reitz and Kevin McGinley of Thompson Coburn in Belleville, Norfolk argues a suit filed by Rudolph Bridges has "no real connection to Madison County."

Bridges, a trackman for Norfolk, filed suit in June alleging Norfolk failed to provide him a safe place to work.

Bridges claims he injured his back, neck, spine, knees and body in July 2005, near Grabill, Ind., while working on and jacking railroad tracks.

In addition, Bridges claims during his tenure at Norfolk from 1979 to 2006, he was subjected to numerous repetitive traumas while repairing railroad tracks.

Bridges claims Norfolk violated provision of FELA by negligently and carelessly failing to provide him safe methods of work, failing to provide sufficient manpower and failing to provide safe tools and equipment.

East Alton attorney Gregory Tobin represents Bridges who is seeking a judgment in excess of $100,000 for his injuries that allegedly caused and continue to cause great pain and mental anguish, lost wages and medical expenses.

Norfolk argues Bridges resides in Fort Wayne, Ind. -- more than 355 miles from the Madison County Courthouse -- and has resided in Indiana throughout his career with them.

The railroad also notes that Bridges was alleged to have been injured in Grabill, Ind., in 2005, not Illinois. As to his repetitive trauma claims, Norfolk argues Bridges worked out of the Lake Division in Fort Wayne throughout his career with the railroad.

"Although Plaintiff's work may have taken him into Madison County, Illinois on occasion, there is no evidence that Plaintiff ever worked in Madison County for any substantial period of time," the motion states.

Norfolk further argues that all of the known witnesses, including co-workers and supervisors in the case are domiciled in Indiana and West Virginia and not Madison County.

The railroad also argues that all of the medical treatment rendered to Bridges either occurred in Indiana or Michigan.

Norfolk further argues that private and public interests weigh strongly in favor of litigating the case in Indiana since Madison County has no significant connection to the subject matter of the lawsuit.

In addition, Norfolk also points to a Fifth District ruling in McGinty v. Norfolk Southern Railway Company.

In that decision, the appellate court held that "occasionally" working in a county, alone, is not enough to defeat a forum non conveniens motion, Norfolk argues.

The railroad asks Matoesian to dismiss the case pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 187 because the case has no substantial connection to Madison County and also because Madison County is an inconvenient forum.

Matoesian will hear arguments on the motion at 9 a.m. on Oct. 10.

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