Motion Practice • Working Conditions • Occupational Safety and Health • Damages • Liability • Personal Injury

Santanna v. Delaware and Hudson Railway Co., Inc., PICS Case No. 14-0514 (M.D. Pa. Feb. 18, 2014) Munley, J. (13 pages).

Defendant Delaware and Hudson Railway Co., Inc. moved in limine to exclude expert testimony and preclude evidence of injuries sustained prior to January 1991. Motions denied.

Plaintiff Ermond Santanna was hired by D&H in 1977 and worked for approximately one year as a trackman. He then entered train service in July 1978, working as a conductor or brakeman until December 2011 when medical issues with both of his knees precluded continued employment. In 1988, D&H went bankrupt and was purchased by Railway.

Santanna alleged he suffered a knee injury in January 2010 when he fell while working in Railway’s Mohawk Yard and claimed a cumulative trauma injury (also known as a repetitive stress injury) following years of walking on uneven surfaces on or near the tracks where he worked. As a result, Santanna developed severe arthritis in his knees, causing him to become disabled.

Santanna initiated the action pursuant to the Federal Employer’s Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. §51-60, for injuries and damages allegedly sustained during the course of his employment with Railway. Santanna employed an expert to support said injuries. In anticipation of the pretrial conference, Railway filed two motions in limine: (1) exclude expert testimony, and (2) preclude evidence of injuries sustained prior to January 1991 when Railway purchased D&H.

Pursuant to Fed.R.Evid. §702, an expert must be qualified as an expert, testify to the matters requiring said expert knowledge, and the testimony must assist the trier of fact. Railway did not dispute that Santanna’s experts would assist the trier of fact; rather Railway claimed the expert was unqualified to provide testimony as to the medical causation of Santanna’s alleged injuries as the expert was not a doctor and disputed the expert’s methodology.

The court found the expert to be qualified in the field of ergonomics holding she had over 25 years of experience in the field, extensive training and education, and possessed a greater knowledge than the average layman. Further, the expert had been involved in 100-125 railroad related cases and her testimony would assist the trier of fact in determining the extent to which work conditions led to the injuries. In addition, the court found the expert’s methodology was based on reliable methods and techniques of science rather than unsupported speculation.

Railway further moved that it was not responsible for liabilities sustained by D&H pursuant to the parties’ purchase agreement and Pennsylvania doctrine which held that when a buyer entity purchases all of the assets of the seller, the buyer was not liable for debts/liabilities, including torts. The court denied the motion in limine holding successor liability controlled as Railway had notice of potential liabilities, continued the same operations and workforce as D&H, and D&H was unable to provide adequate relief to the victimized employees. Teamsters Pension Trust Fund of Phila. & Vicinity v. Littlejohn, 155 F.3d 206 (3d Cir. 1998). Therefore, Railway’s motions in limine were denied.