U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia L. Dodge | U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
PITTSBURGH – A federal judge recently dismissed a work injury lawsuit against FirstEnergy Corporation by a man who was employed as a security guard at one of its facilities.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Patricia L. Dodge, sitting in the Western District of Pennsylvania, on Nov. 13 dismissed the complaint filed by Shawn and Amber McElroy against FirstEnergy Corporation regarding injuries Shawn McElroy allegedly sustained while working at the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Plant in Beaver County. McElroy was a guard for Securitas Security Services USA, Inc.
In the suit, McElroy alleged that he was injured in July 2017 as he conducted an inspection of the plant.
In her nine-page ruling, Dodge said the McElroys had argued three different causes for pursuing action against FirstEnergy.
The first cause was a “Piercing the Corporate Veil/Alter Ego” claim related to the corporate structure of the company and its subsidiaries. The complaint alleged that FirstEnergy's subsidiary companies were “created for the purpose of defrauding and injuring” and that the company “seeks to skirt liability through its maze of incorporation of grossly undercapitalized and bankrupt entities.”
The McElroys also made a negligence claim against FirstEnergy, alleging that the property maintained by the company was “unsafe and defective.”
The third count brought by the couple was for "cause of action for loss of consortium" by Amber McElroy.
In making her ruling in favor of FirstEnergy, Dodge said that because the company was incorporated in Ohio, that state's law applies to the case, not Pennsylvania law.
Dodge said that, under Ohio law, a piercing-the-veil argument can only be made by shareholders or representatives of a company or its subsidiaries. Also, “under Ohio law, these claims represent ‘straightforward torts,’ not the type of ‘exceptional wrong[s] that would justify piercing the corporate veil.”
Given the ruling that the McElroys lack the standing to "pierce the corporate veil," Dodge said that, though FirstEnergy Generation owns and operates the plant and FirstEnergy Nuclear had notice of unsafe conditions, the complaint does not demonstrate liability for FirstEnergy Corporation as the parent company of the other two.
The suit by the McElroys alleges that, while McElroy was walking down a wooden stairway at the plant, one of the steps broke, causing him to “sustain various injuries and damages.” The McElroys sued FirstEnergy in the Court of Common Pleas in Beaver County, and the suit was then removed to U.S. District Court.
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania Civil Action No. 18-1612