Taft partner Jonathan Amarilio will serve as second chair in an oral argument in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on March 28, 2022. The case is Bradley LeDure v. Union Pacific Railroad Co., case number 20-807.
At issue is when locomotives are and are not “in use” on a railroad’s line, a precondition for establishing negligence per se under the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA). The plaintiff is asking the Supreme Court to adopt a rule that locomotives are always “in use” unless they are stopped in a dedicated place of repair. Union Pacific counters that this is an overly-expansive view of what constitutes “use,” and is contrary to the plain and ordinary meaning of the term, as well as the LIA’s history, purpose, and structure.
The plaintiff, Bradley LeDure, brought claims against Union Pacific Railroad under the LIA and the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), following an injury he allegedly sustained in 2016 while working on a locomotive. LeDure was an engineer tasked on the day of his alleged injury with assembling a train, which would include a powered-down locomotive not used to pull the train. The inactive locomotive was to be pulled to another railyard for maintenance and repair. LeDure alleged that he slipped and fell on an oil slick on that locomotive while performing this work, and that Union Pacific was strictly liable for his resulting injury under the LIA, or at least liable under the FELA for negligence. The district court entered summary judgment for Union Pacific, finding the locomotive was not “in use” and therefore not subject to the LIA, and LeDure’s injuries were not reasonably foreseeable. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed.
In December 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the LIA question, but not the FELA question. Amarilio is representing Union Pacific alongside Scott Ballenger, director of the Appellate Litigation Clinic at the University of Virginia School of Law.