United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division
MYERSCOUGH, U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE.
on January 16, 2018, this Court held a three-day jury trial
on Plaintiff Marvin Abernathy's claim against Defendant
Eastern Illinois Railroad Company under the Federal
Employers' Liability Act (FELA). At the close of
Plaintiff's case, Defendant moved for a directed verdict,
which the Court denied. On January 18, 2018, the jury
returned a verdict finding both Defendant and Plaintiff
negligent and that their respective negligence caused or
contributed to Plaintiff's injuries. The jury found
Plaintiff's damages totaled $750, 000 and that
Plaintiff's negligence caused 30% of the damages and
Defendant's negligence caused 70% of the damages, for a
net verdict of $525, 000. The Judgment was filed on January
22, 2018 (d/e 56).
February 15, 2018, Defendant filed a Motion for Judgment as a
Matter of Law Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. Proc. 50(b) or,
Alternatively, Motion for New Trial Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ.
Proc. 50(b) and 59 (d/e 57). On April 10, 2018, the Court
stayed enforcement of the judgment. For the reasons that
follow, the Motion is DENIED.
parties are familiar with the facts of the case. To summarize
the facts, Plaintiff worked as a track inspector for
Defendant for approximately 16 years. On September 13, 2012,
Plaintiff and another employee transported railroad ties over
a public roadway using a backhoe. While transporting the
railroad ties, the load shifted, and one or more ties spilled
from the backhoe onto Illinois Route 130. Plaintiff and his
co-worker manually lifted the ties off the roadway and placed
them back on the backhoe. Plaintiff claims he injured his
back while manually lifting one of the ties.
testified that he preferred to use a piece of equipment
called a tie handler, also called a tie crane, to transport
ties. A tie handler runs on the railroad tracks, has a boom
that can grab ties, and has a cart to hold the ties. With a
tie handler, a worker can move ties all over the railroad
without having to drive on public roads. Plaintiff had
previously operated the backhoe to transport ties within the
yard. Plaintiff testified, however, that he had never before
operated a backhoe down the road with a load like he had on
September 13, 2012. In the past, he had used the tie handler
or the transportation of the ties was outsourced.
tie handler was not operational on September 13, 2012, having
stopped working approximately four years earlier. The parties
presented conflicting evidence on the extent to which
Defendant's employees used the tie handler before it
became inoperable. Plaintiff testified he used the tie
handler weekly when it was operational. Plaintiff also
testified that he repeatedly asked Defendant's general
manager, Tim Allen, to repair or replace the tie handler, but
Defendant refused. Plaintiff told Allen how unsafe their work
was going to be without the tie handler, that it was a safety
issue, and that the tie handler needed to be fixed.
testified that it was not his call to repair or replace the
tie handler but that he did not want to do so because he
thought Plaintiff would abuse the tie handler and run it into
the ground. Everett Fletcher, Defendant's president,
testified the tie handler was not repaired or replaced
because it was seldom used and because of the cost. Allen
testified that Defendant hired out big projects and used
adequate equipment for smaller jobs. According to
Defendant's witnesses, the backhoe or a pickup truck
constituted adequate equipment for transporting ties.
reported the September 13, 2012 accident to Defendant and
continued to work. Plaintiff testified that Allen instructed
the other employees to help Plaintiff do his job because
Plaintiff hurt his back. In addition, work slowed down over
the winter months and Plaintiff generally performed more
minor work in the winter.
14 months after the accident, Plaintiff saw a doctor about
his back pain for the first time. In February 2016, Plaintiff
underwent surgical treatment whereby the surgeon removed the
disc at two levels, replaced the discs with a cage, and put
in screws that connected with rods in Plaintiff's back.
February 2014, Defendant fired Plaintiff. After Plaintiff was
fired, Defendant purchased a new tie handler for the stated
reason that the Environmental Protection Agency made it
mandatory for Defendant to clean up the right-of-way.
testified that if he had not been hurt, he would have retired
at age 68 (he was 45 years old at trial). When he worked for
Defendant, Plaintiff earned $16.70 and generally worked 40
hours per week. He also received paid vacation and benefits.
Plaintiff testified the injury changed every aspect of his
life. He cannot sit for a long period of time, play ball with
his children, or take vacations.
surgeon, Dr. Thomas Lee, testified that, while
Plaintiff's prognosis was good for some additional
improvement, he did not anticipate that Plaintiff would
return to the same level of functioning he was at in
September 2012. According to Dr. Lee, Plaintiff could not
return to employment at the same level he was working before,
which was heavy manual labor. Dr. Lee testified that he
believed, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that
the conditions for which he provided treatment to Plaintiff
were caused by or contributed to be caused by the occurrence
at work on September 13, 2012.
MOTION FOR JUDGMENT AS A MATTER OF LAW
argues that the Court should enter judgment as a matter of
law because the jury did not have legally ...