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Alexandersen & Olarczuk-Smith Obtain Summary Judgment for Two Railroad Carriers

On November 3, 2022, Kevin Alexandersen and Holly Olarczuk-Smith obtained summary judgment for two major railroad carriers in a lymphoma case filed in State Supreme Court, Onondaga County, New York. Plaintiff brought the survival personal injury claim and a wrongful death claim under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”) alleging that the railroad negligently exposed the decedent-employee to workplace chemicals during the course of his railroad employment that caused lymphoma, which led to the employee’s death. In the summary judgment motion, the railroads relied on the employee’s medical records and deposition testimony to establish that the employee was aware of his personal injury claim more than three years before the claim was filed, thus showing that the survival claim was time-barred. In addition, the railroads argued that the wrongful death claim was subject to dismissal because the survivorship claim became time-barred before the employee’s death.

The trial court concluded that the personal injury survival claim was time-barred. In reaching this determination, the trial court held that “[k]nowledge or at the very least reasonable suspicion of linkage” between the employee’s injury and his alleged workplace exposure was established to show that the claim was not timely commenced.  The trial court further held that FELA law does not require an employee to “conclude definitively” with “sufficient certainty” that his injury was work-related. Furthermore, because the personal injury claim became time-barred before the employee’s death, the wrongful death claim was dismissed too.