Taft partners J. Timothy Eaton and Jonathan B. Amarilio successfully argued for the affirmance of a summary judgment decision in favor of client Union Pacific Railroad Company. The plaintiff, Bradley LeDure, brought claims against the railroad under the Locomotive Inspect Act (LIA) and the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), following an injury he allegedly sustained while working on a locomotive. LeDure was an engineer tasked on the day of his injury with powering down locomotives temporarily parked on a railyard sidetrack, from where they would be transported to another railyard for maintenance and repair. LeDure alleged that he slipped and fell on an oil slick 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 granted summary judgment for Union Pacific on both counts and LeDure appealed.
The appeal centered on whether the locomotive from which LeDure fell was “in use,” a threshold statutory requirement for liability under the LIA. Federal courts across the country have taken a variety of positions on what constitutes “in use” under the LIA, but the Seventh Circuit had not opined on its meaning since 1952. Nearly 70 years later, Eaton and Amarilio argued that LeDure’s actions in servicing the locomotive so as to put it in readiness for use were “the antithesis of using it,” and the LIA was therefore inapplicable. The Seventh Circuit agreed, setting precedent of national importance to railroad companies. The Seventh Circuit also agreed with Eaton and Amarilio that LeDure’s accident was unforeseeable because LeDure had no evidence showing that the railroad was on notice of the oil slick itself or of any hazardous condition that could have caused it. Finding no triable issue for a jury, the reviewing court thus affirmed the judgment in favor of Union Pacific.
Bradley Ledure v. Union Pacific Railroad Company, Case No. 19-2164, United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit