Retired railroad worker loses appeal alleging negligence by Norfolk Southern, Consolidated Rail

By Tabitha Fleming | May 5, 2017


PHILADELPHIA — A lifelong railroad worker won’t be able to hold his employer liable for what he claimed were unsafe working conditions that led to long-term injuries. 

Shaun McDermott filed an appeal in the Pennsylvania Superior Court after a trial court found that Consolidated Rail Corporation and Norfolk Southern Railway Company weren’t responsible for his injuries, but the Superior Court affirmed the lower court's decision on April 20.

McDermott testified during the trial that he worked for the railroad from 1975 to 2013. During that time he worked as a trackman, machine operator and repairman. During the course of his duties, he routinely had to lift in excess of 50 pounds, something that McDermott said caused him injury. McDermott claimed that by requiring him to lift that amount of weight, the railroads had been negligent and caused injuries.

During the trial, the railroads produced a memo dated after McDermott’s employment that ended with a maximum lifting weight rule. That rule was only for the mechanical department, which was not the department that employed McDermott.

McDermott’s counsell objected at trial after the introduction of the paperwork from the railroad, saying the railroad shouldn't have "the right to simply show the judge a piece of paper in chambers and say, this is a subsequent measure. It’s not in evidence in the case … I think it’s way too late for the railroad to come in here and pull out a piece of paper that they never provided discovery to suggest that I can’t argue to the jury that the railroad is negligent for requiring Mr. McDermott to lift more than 50 pounds.” 

In the end, the questions for the court centered on whether the trial court erred in two major areas. First, the appeal asked whether the trial court erred in suppressing testimony of a co-worker of McDermott’s, and second, it asked whether the trial court erred in allowing the weight-limit memo to be admitted in court.

After a full review, McDermott’s appeal was summarily dismissed by the Superior Court and the ruling of the lower court affirmed.

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Norfolk Southern Railway Company Superior Court of Pennsylvania

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