Pennsylvania Record

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Ga. man's FELA action versus Norfolk Southern dismissed from Philly court so it can be filed in more appropriate forum

State Court

By Nicholas Malfitano | Jul 25, 2019


Norfolk Southern Railway Company

PHILADELPHIA – A Georgia man and Norfolk Southern Railway Company have mutually elected to discontinue litigation that alleges his contraction of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was a proximate result of his work environment without prejudice.

“Plaintiff, Ronnie L. Sparks, and defendant, Norfolk Southern Railway Company, by and through their attorneys, hereby stipulate and agree to dismiss plaintiff, Ronnie L. Sparks’ Federal Employers Liability Act cancer action, without prejudice, without costs and without attorney fees, to be refiled in the appropriate state or federal court where plaintiff worked in Georgia or Tennessee within 90 days of the date of this stipulation,” according to the praecipe to discontinue.

The praecipe further outlined that if Sparks’s complaint is refiled within 90 days in the appropriate state or federal court where he worked in Georgia or Tennessee, then the filing date to be used for statute of limitations purposes in Georgia or Tennessee will be Aug. 3, 2018, which is the date Sparks’s complaint was originally filed in Philadelphia in the instant FELA cancer action.

Sparks, of Austell, Ga., first 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 claimed 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 alleged 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 stated.

Sparks claimed 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.”

Prior to discontinuance and for a lone count of negligence, the plaintiff was seeking damages in excess of $50,000 plus costs and an eight-person jury trial.

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

The defendant was 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 nick.malfitano@therecordinc.com

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