Pennsylvania Record

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Court says case of Indiana railroad worker who died of cancer can be heard in Pennsylvania

State Court

By Charmaine Little | Jul 8, 2019

PHILADELPHIA - A three-judge panel with the Superior Court of Pennsylvania affirmed a lower court’s ruling that denied a motion to dismiss a case after a man’s exposure to dangerous chemicals allegedly resulted in fatal lung and liver cancer.

President Judge Correale Stevens wrote the May 29 opinion. Judges Judith Ference Olson and Alice Beck Dubow concurred.

Howard Robbins, the personal representative for the estate of David Robbins (the deceased), sued Consolidated Rail Corp. and Penn Central Corp. in the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County Civil Division. 

The deceased worked as a trackman, machine operator and/or track foreman at Indianapolis' Beech Grove Train Yard. During his time there, from 1953 to 1989, Robbins said the deceased was frequently exposed to substances that caused cancer. He said the consistent exposure led to the deceased being diagnosed with liver and lung cancer and ultimately passing away on March 1, 2014. 

While he sued, the defendants filed a motion to dismiss, which the lower court denied in December 2017. The defendants appealed, and the Superior Court backed the denial of the dismissal.

“We disagree with appellants that the trial court’s statements demonstrated the court found appellants had an ‘untoward motive’ in seeking to dismiss the instant suit or that the trial court gave ‘heightened deference’ to Mr. Robbins in analyzing the forum non conveniens issue,” said the court. Instead, the lower court’s determination and ultimately its ruling were fitting as it relates to the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) concerning the venue for the case (mainly Pennsylvania)."

Ultimately, the court said there was no issue with the lower court’s ruling. 

“The trial court relevantly concluded there was no evidence that Indiana would provide easier access to the decedent’s employment records, which are housed in New Jersey and/or Florida,” said the court. Plus, the defendants made it clear they weren’t likely to ask for an opportunity to evaluate the train yard in question.

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