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Superior Court of Pennsylvania
February 3, 2004, Argued ; December 9, 2004, Filed
No. 547 EDA 2003
[**1196] OPINION BY McCAFFERY, J.:
[*P1] Appellant, David F. Labes, asks us to determine whether the trial court erred in refusing to remove the non-suit entered against him at trial. Specifically, we must decide whether Appellant presented adequate evidence of negligence, pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA") 1,to permit his case to be decided by a jury. We hold that under FELA's liberal evidentiary standards, Appellant did, in fact, proffer evidence sufficient to survive a non-suit. Accordingly, we are constrained to reverse and remand for a new trial.
[*P2] The relevant facts and procedural history are as follows. Appellant started working for Appellee, New Jersey Transit [***2] Rail Operations, Inc. ("NJTRO") as a water service mechanic in 1987. The job required Appellant to repair and install pipes and perform other maintenance. Notes of Testimony (N. T.), 10/1/01, at 49. The job also required Appellant to work outdoors year round, to kneel for long periods on ballast and rail ties and perform heavy lifting. (Id. at 52-57; 61-63). Appellant was either using his back, knees or both a minimum of four to five hours per day. (Id. at 68). Over the years, [**1197] NJTRO decreased its manpower in Appellant's department, which meant he had to do more of this work. (Id. at 71). He complained to his supervisors about the lack of manpower. (Id. at 71). Appellant complained to his supervisor about his knee pain. (Id., at 74). He requested knee pads, but none were provided. (Id. at 73). 2 He began experiencing severe back pain as well. (Id. at 83). Appellant also complained to his supervisor about his back pain. (Id. at 92). He stated he never received any job training or preventive instruction on how to avoid back or knee injuries. (Id. at 74-75; 79). By 1999, Appellant required surgery [***3] on his right knee. (Id. at 73). He has received several injections as well as treatment from a chiropractor for his back pain. (Id. at 93).
[*P3] Appellant brought this negligence suit against Appellee under FELA. At trial, Appellant presented testimony from a co-worker who corroborated Appellant's testimony concerning job duties, lack of manpower and lack of training. Appellant also presented the testimony of his orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. Esformes, in support of his causation argument that the repetitive nature of his work had caused the back and knee problems, including specifically the heavy lifting and extended periods of kneeling on hard and uneven surfaces which his job required. At the close of Appellant's case, the trial court granted Appellee's motion for compulsory non-suit and Appellant's case was dismissed.
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2004 PA Super 467 *; 863 A.2d 1195 **; 2004 Pa. Super. LEXIS 4811 ***
DAVID F. LABES, Appellant v. NEW JERSEY TRANSIT RAIL OPERATIONS, INC., Appellee
Subsequent History: Appeal denied by Labes v. N.J. Transit Rail Operations, Inc., 2005 Pa. LEXIS 994 (Pa., May 11, 2005)
Prior History: [***1] Appeal from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County, Civil Division, No. 617 August Term 2000. Before DiVITO, J.
Disposition: Reversed and remanded.
injuries, knee, trial court, lifting, railroad, cases, heavy, non-suit, employees, kneeling, pipes, causal relationship, training, talking, pads
Admiralty & Maritime Law, Maritime Tort Actions, Negligence, General Overview, Torts, Rail Transportation, Theories of Liability, Federal Employers' Liability Act, Transportation Law, Safety Appliance Act, Couplers, Transportation Torts, Civil Procedure, Subject Matter Jurisdiction, Jurisdiction Over Actions, Concurrent Jurisdiction, Governments, Federal Government, Claims By & Against, Jurisdiction, Preliminary Considerations, Federal & State Interrelationships, Erie Doctrine, Trials, Jury Trials, Province of Court & Jury, Contributory Negligence, Procedural Matters, Judgment as Matter of Law, Defenses, Right to Jury Trial, US Supreme Court Review, Evidence, Admissibility, Circumstantial & Direct Evidence