Railroad says lawsuit shouldn't be in Madison County

Steve Gonzalez Oct. 30, 2008, 7:55am

Madison County has no substantial connection to a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) suit, Norfolk Southern Railway argues in a forum non conveniens motion.

Norfolk wants Circuit Judge Daniel Stack to transfer William Cyrus' FELA suit because he does not live in the county, nor is there any evidence that he was headquartered in Madison County.

Cyrus filed suit in August, seeking damages in excess of $100,000 alleging he developed cancer and his back and neck became "worn-out" due to repetitive trauma.

Cyrus alleges his cancer was caused due to exposure to chemicals including insecticides, herbicides, cleaning solvents, diesel fumes, creosote and silica.

He worked as a Maintenance of Way Department foreman for Norfolk.

"Plaintiff sustained severe and permanent injuries to his blood, bone marrow, lungs, pulmonary, cardiovascular and internal systems, resulting in disease and infestation to his body and related medical problems, including cancer…," the complaint states.

Cyrus also alleges that he suffered repetitive trauma to his body and, "in particular, his back and neck, and caused him to be severely and permanently injured, and to develop a 'worn-out' or repetitive injury to his body, in whole or in part, due to the carelessness and negligence of Defendant," the complaint states.

Cyrus alleges Norfolk failed to provide him a safe place to work, failed to supply suitable tools and equipment and failed to provide adequate personnel to assist him in his duties.

He is represented by Robert W. Schmieder of Pratt & Tobin in East Alton.

But, Norfolk argues Cyrus' case belongs in Montgomery County and that Stack should transfer it pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 187.

According to Norfolk, Cyrus began his employment with them in April 1973, and during his entire employment lived in Montgomery or Fayette County.

Norfolk argues that Cyrus and his co-workers who would be expected to testify at trial would be located near his place of employment in Taylorville in Christian County.

"None of Plaintiff's known supervisors or co-workers are located in Madison County," the motion states.

The railroad also argues that Cyrus' nine medical providers either are located in Montgomery, Sangamon or Macon counties.

"While Plaintiff may have worked occasionally in Madison County, he has identified no material witnesses or sources of proof located in Madison County," the motion states. "Instead, they are concentrated in and around Montgomery County."

Norfolk argues that since Cyrus never lived or was headquartered in Madison County, his choice or forum is entitled to little deference.

"Plaintiff's forum choice cannot be viewed as a persuasive or legitimate reason for burdening Madison County when the controversy arose outside of Madison County and should, in the interests of justice, be tried elsewhere," the motion states.

In addition, the railroad argues little weight should be given to the location of attorneys' offices and that civil caseload statistics also favor trial in Montgomery County.

Norfolk is represented by Kurt Reitz of Thompson Coburn in Belleville.

Stack has set a hearing for 9 a.m. on Nov. 19.

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