A locomotive conductor brought suit under the federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) against his employer, defendant, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company, to recover damages for an injury he allegedly suffered at work when he attempted to step up onto the bottom step of a locomotive and pull himself up and his knee gave out. Both sides filed motions for summary judgment. After a hearing, the trial court granted defendant’s motion for summary judgment and denied plaintiff’s. The plaintiff appealed and in the appellate court proceedings Cogan & Power attorneys saw the appellate court reverse the judgment of the circuit court of Knox County and remand the case to the trial court for further proceedings.
Plaintiff worked for defendant for nearly 40 years and was a locomotive conductor. On November 19, 2009, plaintiff and his crew were sent to retrieve a locomotive, unit number 6203, which had been disconnected from the rear of a coal train and left by itself on one of the main tracks because it was unable to establish radio communication with the front locomotive as required. The radio communication was necessary to allow the front locomotive of a train. Because unit 6203 was blocking traffic, plaintiff and his crew were sent to move it back to the depot. As plaintiff attempted to step up from the ground to the bottom step of unit 6203 and pull himself up onto the locomotive, which was stationary at the time, he felt a snap in his right knee. Plaintiff’s right knee gave out and was injured. Plaintiff immediately reported the injury to the locomotive engineer and to the trainmaster and filled out an injury report. Due to the injury, plaintiff subsequently had to have surgery to repair his right knee and missed several months of work.
In April 2011, plaintiff brought the instant suit under the FELA against defendant to recover damages for his injury. In court I of the second amended complaint, plaintiff alleged, among other things, that: (1) the injury to his right knee was the result of a specific accident that occurred on November 19, 2009; (2) on that date, he was ordered to operate a locomotive that was not part of his train consist, locomotive unit number 6203, that was left on the tracks because the locomotive was defective; (3) when he attempted to step up onto the bottom step of unit 6203 and to lift himself onto the locomotive, the ballast (the rocks between, beneath, and to the side of the railroad tracks) under his foot shifted, causing him to twist and to severely injure his right knee; (4) defendant had a nondelegable duty to provide plaintiff with a reasonable safe place to work; (5) defendant violated that duty by committing certain acts of negligence, which were specifically listed in the complaint; (6) one of the acts of negligence that defendant committed was that defendant violated the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA) (49 U.S.C. 20701 et seq. (2012)) by providing a locomotive (unit 6203) that was not safe to operate and had defects; and (7) defendant’s failure to provide plaintiff with a safe place to work by one or more of the specifically listed acts of negligence caused, in whole or in part, plaintiff’s injury.
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