A recent Third Circuit Court ruling in Carmen Rosa Gomez v. Norfolk Southern Corporation, et al. (Case No. 2:17-cd-00231) could be a defining moment for some Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) claims. The case was brought by the widow of a lift truck operator who was crushed to death in a work accident. Eleven defendants, including the Norfolk Southern Railway (NSR), are parties to the lawsuit. The court’s ruling on who can be considered a common carrier and an employer may have larger implications by potentially expanding the types of defendants who can be named in future FELA claims.
Court Ruled Against H&M and NSR
A truck collapsed on top of the plaintiff’s husband while he was unloading a shipping container from a railcar. When the accident occurred, the plaintiff’s husband was an employee of H&M International Transportation, Inc. (H&M), a contractor hired by NSR to manage operations at the terminal. The widow made several allegations against the defendants, including FELA claims against H&M and NSR. In summary judgment motions, both defendants asserted that they should not be named in a FELA claim. H&M argued that it was a contractor, not a common carrier, while NSR contended that it was not the decedent’s employer.