BENTON -- District judge J. Ryan Gilbert granted summary judgment to a railroad company in a case alleging one of its engineers slipped and fell as he inspected a train.
Gilbert, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois, ruled that Bradley LeDure's claim for damages under two federal statutes failed because the train was not "in use" and LeDure could not prove that the company negligently placed the plaintiff in a situation that led to his injuries.
LeDure sued his employer, Union Pacific Railroad Company, after he slipped on a locomotive walkway, which allegedly caused injuries to his “shoulders, spine, back, neck, left and right hand/fingers and head."
Railroad workers are not covered by workers' compensation, but can sue under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), where they have to show negligence.
The plaintiff also alleged violations of the Locomotive Inspection Act. He argued that Union Pacific failed to maintain the train in a condition that was safe, failed to adequately inspect it and failed to properly treat the surfaces, on which there was “a greasy or oil-type substance."
To prevail under the Locomotive Act, the plaintiff has to prove the train was "in use" at the time of the accident.
The district court noted that there is no clear-cut test to define "in use" despite it being the subject of numerous federal court of appeals decisions dating to 1949. After detailing several cases that swung between whether "in use" covers a non-moving train or not, Gilbert added, "Other U.S. courts of appeals are also all over the place."
In this case, Gilbert leaned toward those decisions that ruled the train was not "in use" and sided with the train company.
Under FELA, the argument turned on whether it was "reasonably forseeable" that a reasonable person would conclude that the circumstances leading to the injury created potential harm.
After finding that Union Pacific could not have known ahead of time that LaDure was in potential danger, Gilbert added, "There is also no evidence that Union Pacific had actual notice of the 'greasy or oil-type substance' that LeDure slipped on. In fact, LeDure himself could not identify the source of the substance or even what it was."
The court granted Union Pacific's summary judgment and dismissed the claim.