Wal-Mart lawyers again seek to move injury claim by distribution center worker to federal court

By Jon Campisi | Jun 25, 2013

Lawyers for Wal-Mart are once again seeking to transfer a personal injury claim by a

Lawyers for Wal-Mart are once again seeking to transfer a personal injury claim by a

Pennsylvania man from state to federal court, just over two months after a federal judge sent the case back to the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.

The case, previously reported on by the Pennsylvania Record, involves allegations by Stephan Stewart that he badly cut his knuckle in the spring of 2011 while removing debris from the inside of a pallet at the retailer’s distribution center.

Lawyer James Beasley, of Philadelphia’s Beasley Firm, claims his client was forced to undergo several surgical procedures to treat his injuries, which included necrotizing fasciitis, decreased right arm mobility and function, severe and permanent scarring, multiple skin grafts, chronic pain and other ills.

The plaintiff even had to be placed in a medically induced coma at one point during the course of his treatment.

Stewart, who was an employee of Rehrig Penn Logistics, was working at the Wal-Mart distribution Center in Tobyhanna, Pa. at the time of the incident.

In mid-April, U.S. District Judge Joel H. Slomsky, of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granted a plaintiff’s motion to remand the case to state court in Philadelphia in mid-April after Stewart’s legal team contended that two more Wal-Mart managers who may be liable for the plaintiff’s injuries would likely be added to the suit.

Those two managers were later identified as Chris Cherry and Ed Geisler.

Cherry was an operations manager and Geisler an asset protection manager at the distribution center.

Stewart’s lawyers argued that because Cherry and Geisler are Pennsylvania residents, the case should be allowed to proceed in state court, since diversity jurisdiction would be defeated.

The record shows that earlier this month, however, Philadelphia Common Pleas Court Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson sustained a defense preliminary objection seeking dismissal of the claims against both Cherry and Geisler with prejudice.

Wal-Mart’s attorneys now conclude that the matter belongs back in federal court because of diversity in citizenship once again exists, and also because the matter in controversy is believed to exceed $75,000, which triggers U.S. District Court jurisdiction.

The remaining defendants are Wal-Mart Stores East L.P. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.

As for Stewart, the Monroe County resident alleges that in addition to the aforementioned injuries, he also has experienced tremendous pain and suffering, depression and anxiety, nervous shock, sleeping difficulties, weakness, numbness, headaches, and a need for continued physical therapy and rehabilitation.

The plaintiff also claims he has sustained past wage losses and a loss of future earning capacity, all due to his injuries.

Lastly, Stewart says he has suffered an increased risk of harm for further medical problems.

The Wal-Mart defendants are being represented by attorney Patrick J. McDonnell, of the Montgomery County-based firm of McDonnell & Associates.

The federal case number is 2:13-cv-03466-JHS.

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