Jon Campisi Jul. 17, 2013, 6:28am


A personal injury claim against the National Railroad Passenger Corp., more commonly

known as Amtrak, must play out in federal court because the defendant is a quasi-governmental entity, a U.S. District Judge in Philadelphia has ruled.

Judge Gene E.K. Pratter, who sits in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, denied this week a motion by plaintiff Patricia Seabron to remand her civil action to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, where the woman had originally filed the first of two complaints.

The April 11 lawsuit, which alleged that Seabron sustained injuries after tripping over a broken metal pole protruding from a sidewalk back on Dec. 22, 2010, was preceded by a separate state court action last July that named the City of Philadelphia and others as defendants.

During the course of discovery relating to the July 24, 2012, suit, Seabron claims she learned that Amtrak could also be a defendant in the matter, and thus she argued that the two separate state court actions could be consolidated.

But she never attempted to join Amtrak as a defendant, the record shows.

In mid-April, lawyers for Amtrak removed the second Seabron action to the federal venue, after which Seabron filed her motion to remand.

In her July 15 memorandum and order, Pratter wrote that “even being mindful that all doubts concerning the propriety of removal are to be resolved in favor of remand, the Court concludes that it must deny Ms. Seabron’s motion for remand because federal jurisdiction is present.”

In her petition, the plaintiff had argued that Amtrak failed to establish a proper basis for federal subject matter jurisdiction, while the railroad agency counter-argued that federal question jurisdiction exists because Amtrak was established by an act of the United States Congress, thus making it a litigant appropriate for federal court oversight.

The judge’s memorandum notes that Seabron never disputed that Amtrak is a federally-chartered corporation, and therefore federal question jurisdiction would exist even if Seabron had joined Amtrak as a defendant in the original lawsuit.

“The Court has original jurisdiction over this case pursuant to [federal law] and Amtrak is permitted to remove the case to this court,” Pratter wrote.

As for the allegations in her complaint, Seabron claims to have sustained fractures to her extremities, cubital tunnel syndrome, scarring, arthritis and other injuries as a result of tripping over a broken metal pole protruding from a walkway in Paoli, Chester County in late December 2010.

The plaintiff claims that Amtrak had, or should have had, reasonable knowledge of the hazardous condition and that it committed an act of negligence when it failed to correct the dangerous condition.

Seabron says she had to spend a great deal of money on medical care to treat her injuries, which rendered her unable to carry out her regular duties and activities.

The record shows that Seabron, who resides in Philadelphia, is being represented by Philadelphia lawyer William M. Carlitz.

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