Lack of jurisdiction dispels Delaware man's lawsuit for FELA violations against Amtrak

By Nicholas Malfitano | Apr 25, 2018

PHILADELPHIA – The case of a Delaware plaintiff and former Amtrak employee who alleged the company violated the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) by subjecting him to an unsafe workplace, has had his case dismissed for lack of personal jurisdiction.

James Brown of Newark, Del., first filed suit on June 2, 2017 in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, versus National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), also of Philadelphia.

“Since June 16, 1980, Mr. Brown has been employed by Amtrak as a pipefitter. As a pipefitter, Mr. Brown was required to walk in and about uneven and unstable concrete and ballast, which put stress and strain on, and transmitted repetitive forces and vibrations into Mr. Brown’s feet and ankles,” the lawsuit said.

“As a pipefitter, Mr. Brown also worked with sheet metal and copper piping. Mr. Brown’s duties included shaping and bending the copper piping and sheet metal using hand tools, air tools and pneumatic tools, which put stress and strain on, and transmitted repetitive forces and vibrations into Mr. Brown’s shoulders and arms,” the suit added.

As a result of the repetitive trauma to parts of his body that he says he sustained, Brown claimed to have suffered injuries including, but not limited to his, “trigger finger of the left middle and ring finger, trigger finger of the right middle finger, left cubital tunnel syndrome, left elbow ulnar nerve entrapment, right shoulder impingement syndrome, right ulnar nerve lesion at the elbow, bilateral plantar fasciitis and bilateral bone spurs of the heel and/or feet.”

The plaintiff added the defendants violated FELA by negligently failing to provide him with a safe work environment and instead placed him in an environment traveling on unsafe services and using unsafe tools, which led to the serious injuries he described.

However, in preliminary objections filed by defense counselor Rachel M. Shields on Dec. 12, 2017, Amtrak said that due to Brown’s residence in Delaware, the courts of Pennsylvania lacked personal jurisdiction over him.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas Judge Mary D. Colins concurred, sustaining Amtrak’s objections, and dismissed Brown’s complaint for the aforementioned reason of lack of personal jurisdiction on Feb. 13.   

Before dismissal, the plaintiff was seeking damages in excess of $50,000, plus interest, costs, fees and such and other further relief the Court and jury shall deem appropriate in this matter.

The plaintiff was represented by Patrick Finn of Myers Lafferty Law Offices, in Philadelphia.

The defendant was represented by Shields and Yuri J. Brunetti of Landman Corsi Ballaine Ford, also in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 170600005

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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Amtrak Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas

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