Pennsylvania Record

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Superior Court backs rail company in ongoing injury case

State Court

By Charmaine Little | Aug 1, 2019

President Judge Emeritus Correale F. Stevens

HARRISBURG -- The Superior Court of Pennsylvania on July 19 ordered the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County’s Civil Division to dismiss a lawsuit against Consolidated Rail and CSX.

The companies were sued by Samuel Wright, who alleges violations of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. 

Wright, who has worked for the defendants since 1974, said his job responsibilities as a car inspector at the Dewitt Train Yard in East Syracuse, New York, caused him to experience stress injuries in his shoulders. 

The defendants appealed after the lower court denied their motion to dismiss, pointing out that Wright had no connection to Pennsylvania. He lived in New York and South Carolina, and even worked in New York at the time of his alleged injuries. The Superior Court reversed the ruling against them.

For starters, it backed the appellants' argument that the lower court “erred in giving great deference to Mr. Wright’s choice of forum and incorporating ‘plaintiff-friendly’ standards into its analysis.” It said the lower court should have provided less consideration to his choice of Pennsylvania as a forum [despite having no connection there] and instead would have used its discretion if it figured out if there was a more convenient and suitable forum for the lawsuit to play out. 

“Determining whether Mr. Wright’s chosen forum was ‘merely inconvenient’ to appellants was not the proper standard for the trial court in ruling on appellants’ interstate forum non conveniens motion,” the Superior Court ruled.

The court also said the lower court erred in placing a burden on the appellants to provide evidence to back their motion, considering there was no argument that Wright’s connections were in New York, for the most part, and that he had none in Pennsylvania.

Although Consolidated Rail is based in Philadelphia, that doesn’t completely rule out the opportunity for dismissal for forum non conveniens, so the court reversed and remanded.

President Judge Emeritus Correale F.  Stevens wrote the opinion. Justices Judith Ference Olson and Alice Beck Dubow agreed.

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