Norfolk Southern: Why is N.C. man suing us in Philadelphia?

By Nicholas Malfitano | Nov 2, 2018


PHILADELPHIA – A North Carolina man and ex-employee for Norfolk Southern Railway Co. says the development of his colon cancer is directly tied to his work duties as a brakeman, conductor and engineer, while the rail company claims the case has no connection to Pennsylvania.

Jack E. Piercy Jr. of Old Fort, N.C. filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Sept. 26 versus Norfolk Southern Railway Co. in Norfolk, Va.

According to the lawsuit, Piercy worked for the defendant as a brakeman, conductor and engineer from 1972 to 1996, from Asheville, N.C. to Salisbury, N.C., in Winston-Salem, N.C., Charlotte, N.C., South Carolina, Missouri and Illinois.

During that time frame, Piercy alleges he was cumulatively exposed to “excessive amounts of diesel exhaust/fumes that were produced and expelled by running diesel locomotives, excessive amounts of creosote by walking on rail ties impregnated with creosote and excessive amounts of asbestos that were found in brake shoes on the locomotives, railroad cars and pipe coverings on insulated pipes, in buildings and facilities.”

Furthermore, Piercy says these cumulative exposures were the cause of his later development of colon cancer, less than three years before the filing of the complaint.

“Jack E. Piercy, Jr.’s colon cancer was the result of the negligence of the defendant in that even though it knew, or in the exercise of ordinary care should have known, that the cancer causing materials were deleterious, poisonous and highly harmful to his health, and that he would not know of such dangers to his health,” the suit says.

Piercy alleges the defendant violated FELA by negligently failing to provide him a reasonably safe place to work and failing “to minimize or eliminate plaintiff’s exposure to diesel exhaust, creosote and asbestos,” among other charges.

Through preliminary objections filed on Oct. 16, Norfolk Southern Railway Co.’s counsel, the defense seeks the dismissal of the case due to an alleged lack of general personal jurisdiction established in the complaint.

“Critically, plaintiff’s complaint is completely devoid of any allegations that he worked for Norfolk Southern in Pennsylvania, and otherwise fails allege any facts that connect the claims in this suit to Norfolk Southern’s business activities in Pennsylvania,” the objections read, in part.

For a lone count of negligence, the plaintiff is seeking damages in excess of $50,000 plus costs and an eight-person jury trial.

The plaintiff is represented by Thomas J. Joyce III and Tobi A. Russeck of Bern Cappelli, in Conshohocken.

The defendant is represented by David A. Damico, Daniel B. Donahoe, Jason J. Cervone and Jeffrey A. Jackson of Burns White, in Pittsburgh.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180703696

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at nickpennrecord@gmail.com

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Norfolk Southern Corporation Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas

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