Pennsylvania Record

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Norfolk Southern Railway opposes choice of Philly court for suit filed by Ga. man with Hodgkin's Lymphoma


By Nicholas Malfitano | Nov 2, 2018

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PHILADELPHIA – A Georgia man and former employee of Norfolk Southern Railway Co. has chosen Philadelphia as a setting in which to argue that his contraction of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was a proximate result of his work environment, a move opposed by the rail company.

Ronnie L. Sparks of Austell, Ga. filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on Sept. 26 versus Norfolk Southern Railway Co. in Norfolk, Va.

Per the litigation, Sparks worked for the defendant as a switchman and conductor from 1979 to 2012, in Chattanooga, Tenn. and Atlanta, Ga.

In his time employed with the defendant, Sparks claims he was 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.”

Sparks alleges these same cumulative exposures were the reason he later contracted Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

“Ronnie L. Sparks’ Hodgkin’s lymphoma was the result of the negligence of the defendant in that it employed known cancer causing materials in its operations, which the defendant knew, or in the exercise of ordinary care should have known, were deleterious, poisonous, and highly harmful to their employees’ health,” the complaint states.

Sparks claims 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,” in addition to other charges.

In preliminary objections filed on Oct. 16, attorneys for Norfolk Southern Railway Co.’s sought the outright dismissal of the case, due to a supposed lack of specific personal jurisdiction established in the lawsuit.

Per the listed objections, “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.”

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, Jeffrey A. Jackson and Ashley E. Horton of Burns White, in Pittsburgh.

Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180703962

From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at

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Organizations in this Story

Norfolk Southern CorporationBurns White, LLCPhiladelphia County Court of Common Pleas

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