United States District Court, E.D. Louisiana
ORDER & REASONS
M. AFRICK UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
April 20, 2017, plaintiff Bryan Horne (“Horne”)
was working as a foreman in Laplace, Louisiana, when he was
allegedly knocked off of a railroad trestle by a trackhoe.
Horne fell several feet and suffered physical injuries to his
wrists and nose. At the time of the accident, Horne was
employed by Illinois Central Railroad (“IC”), and
the trackhoe was operated by an employee of BRV Equipment
Inc. (“BRV”). Horne initiated the present
lawsuit, suing IC under the Federal Employers' Liability
Act (“FELA”) and BRV for general negligence under
final pretrial conference, the Court noted the dearth of
evidence with respect to any claims of independent negligence
on the part of IC and permitted IC to file an untimely motion
for summary judgment regarding its liability under the FELA.
IC filed such a motion, arguing that it did not breach any
duty owed to Horne under the FELA and that the alleged
negligence of BRV's employee cannot be imputed to IC.
opposes IC's motion. He does not contend that IC or any
of its employees were independently negligent. Rather, he
maintains that the BRV employee operating the trackhoe at the
time of time of the accident was acting as IC's agent and
that, as a result, IC is subject to FELA liability for the
alleged negligence of BRV's employee. The Court,
therefore, will grant IC's motion as it relates to any
independent negligence on the part of IC. However, with
respect to IC's liability under the FELA for the alleged
negligence of BRV's employee, the Court concludes that
IC's motion for summary judgment must be denied.
FELA provides, in relevant part:
Every common carrier by railroad while engaging in commerce
between any of the several States . . . shall be liable in
damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed
by such carrier in such commerce . . . for such injury or
death resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of
any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier, or
by reason of any defect or insufficiency, due to its
negligence, in its cars, engines, appliances, machinery,
track, roadbed, works, boats, wharves, or other equipment.
45 U.S.C. § 51. “Under the [FELA], a railroad will
be liable if its negligence or its agent's negligence
played any part, even the slightest, in producing the
employee's injury.” Armstrong v. Kansas City
So. Ry. Co., 752 F.2d 1110, 1113 (5th Cir. 1985).
respect to a railroad's liability for actions of its
agents, the Supreme Court has held that third parties
performing under contract on behalf of a railroad are agents
within the meaning of the FELA. Sinkler v. Missouri Pac.
R. Co., 356 U.S. 326, 331-32 (1958). In
Sinkler, the petitioner was employed by the
respondent railroad as a cook aboard a railcar. Id.
at 326. The petitioner was injured when a third party company
attempted to switch the railcar from one track to another,
causing the railcar to collide with a second railcar at the
station. Id. The petitioner recovered a judgment
against the respondent railroad under the FELA, but the state
appellate court reversed, finding that “FELA did not
subject the [railroad] to liability for injuries of its
employee caused by the fault of employees” of the third
party company. Id. The state supreme court denied
the petitioner's application for writ of error, and the
Supreme Court granted certiorari. Id.
Supreme Court observed that “[n]o question of liability
for the fault of officers or employees of the [railroad was]
raised, but only whether the petitioner's injuries were
due to the fault of ‘agents' of the respondent
within the meaning of the section.” Id. at
328. The Supreme Court in Sinkler reasoned that the
third party company's “corporate autonomy”
and its “freedom from detailed supervision of its
operations” by the railroad were “irrelevant
inasmuch as the switching crew of the [third party company]
at the moment of the collision in the station was engaged in
furthering the operational activities of” the railroad.
Id. at 331. Hence, it held that “when a
railroad employee's injury is caused in whole or in part
by the fault of others performing, under contract,
operational activities of his employer, such others are
‘agents' of the employer within the meaning of
[the] FELA.” Id.
there is no real dispute that, at the time of Horne's
accident, BRV was acting as IC's agent. Indeed, IC
effectively concedes as much. Thus, like the railroad in
Sinkler, IC cannot escape liability under the FELA
simply because Horne's injury resulted solely from the
negligence of BRV's employee, IC's admitted agent.
See Nivens v. St. Louis Sw. Ry. Co., 425 F.2d 114,
120 (5th Cir. 1970) (“Liability may be imposed on a
railroad for a third-party's negligence while
‘engaged in furthering the operational activities'
of the railroad. The third party's activities are
considered a part of the railroad's ‘total
IT IS ORDERED that IC's motion for
summary judgment is GRANTED IN PART as
unopposed with respect to IC's independent negligence but
DENIED IN PART as to IC's liability
under FELA for the alleged negligence of BRV's employee.