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Federal Locomotive Inspection Act: Strict Liability for Injury When Locomotive “In Use”

Posted by Ted A. Schmidt | Jul 01, 2024 | 0 Comments

Carter v. BNSF Railway Co., No. 1 CA-CV 23-0164 (App. Div. I, June 25, 2024) (J.Cattani))


 Plaintiff was a locomotive engineer working for defendant BNSF Railway Company [BNSF]. Plaintiff was moving a locomotive to a sidetrack to assemble a train when he noticed it was leaking oil badly. Because BNSF did not have a repair or maintenance facility in the area, he moved to the locomotive to a spot on the track known as “Bad Order Spot” to await inspection and repair.  As plaintiff exited the locomotive, onto the catwalk, he slipped on oil and injured his knee.

Plaintiff sued BNSF under the Federal Employers' Liability Act claiming BNSF was strictly liable for his injury under the federal Locomotive Inspection Act [LIA] in violation of safety regulations. Plaintiff also sued for simply negligence. BNSF moved for partial summary judgment on the LIA claim asserting the locomotive was not “in use” at the time of the injury, an admitted prerequisite or liability under the LIA. The trial court granted the motion and certified the judgment as appealable under Ariz. R. Civ. P. 54(b).  The Arizona Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court.

The rule is that a train car that has reached a “place of repair” is not “in use.” Here, while the locomotive was originally in use, when plaintiff observed the oil leak he moved it to the Bad Order Spot where  he parked it for inspection and any necessary repair. As such it was not “in use” at the time of his injury and BNSF was properly granted partial summary judgment on this theory. 

About the Author

Ted A. Schmidt

Ted's early career as a trial attorney began on the other side of the fence, in the offices of a major insurance defense firm. It was there that Ted acquired the experience, the skills and the special insight into defense strategy that have served him so well in the field of personal injury law. Notable among his successful verdicts was the landmark Sparks vs. Republic National Life Insurance Company case, a $4.5 million award to Ted's client. To this day, it is the defining case for insurance bad faith, and yet it is only one of several other multi-million dollar jury judgments won by Ted during his career. He is certified by the State Bar of Arizona as a specialist in "wrongful death and bodily injury litigation".


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