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Tyrrell v. BNSF Railway Co.

Tyrrell v. BNSF Railway Co., 2016 MT 126 (May 31, 2016) (Shea, J.; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (6-1, aff’d & rev’d) (consolidated appeals)

Issue: (1) Whether Montana courts have personal jurisdiction over BNSF under FELA, and (2) whether Montana courts have personal jurisdiction over BNSF under Montana law.

Short Answer: (1) Yes, and (2) yes.

Affirmed (denial of BNSF’s motion to dismiss) and reversed (granting BNSF’s motion to dismiss)

Facts: In March 2011, Nelson, a North Dakota resident, sued BNSF in Montana to recover damages for injuries sustained in his employment with BNSF. BNSF is a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Texas. Nelson does not allege that he ever worked in Montana or was injured in Montana.…

Anderson v. BNSF Railway

Anderson v. BNSF Railway, 2015 MT 240 (Aug. 12, 2015) (Shea, J.; Wheat, J., concurring; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (6-1, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred in allowing the statute of limitations to be decided as a fact question; (1.a) whether the continuing tort doctrine applies to cumulative trauma injuries under FELA; (1.b) whether an employee can recover under FELA for aggravation of a time-barred injury; (1.c) whether non-disabling aches and pains constitute an injury under FELA; and (2) whether counsel for BNSF made improper comments that deprived Anderson of a fair trial.

Short Answer: (1) No; (1.a) no; (1.b) yes; (1.c) no; and (2) yes.

Reversed and remanded for new trial

Facts: Robert Anderson worked for BNSF for more 30 years, primarily as a carman inspecting and repairing railroad cars in Havre.…

Martin v. BNSF Railway

Martin v. BNSF Railway, 2015 MT 167 (June 23, 2015) (Shea, J.; McKinnon, J., concurring & dissenting) (4-1, aff’d & rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court erred by allowing Martin’s Locomotive Act claim to be considered by the jury; (2) whether district court abused its discretion by excluding evidence of heated platforms at BNSF’s Whitefish and Essex depots; and (3) whether the district court abused its discretion by admitting into evidence the amount of income Martin made from non-railroad-related employment.

Short Answer: (1) No; (2) yes for the Whitefish platform but no for the Essex one; (3) yes, necessitating a new trial.

Affirmed and reversed and remanded for new trial

Facts: Martin began working for BNSF in 2004, and was promoted to conductor after a few months.…

Spotted Horse v. BNSF R.R. Co.

Spotted Horse v. BNSF R.R. Co., 2015 MT 148 (May 29, 2015) (Cotter, J.; Wheat, J., concurring; McKinnon, J., dissenting) (6-1, rev’d)

Issue: (1) Whether the district court abused its discretion in declining to grant plaintiff’s motion for default judgment based on spoliation of evidence; and (2) whether the district court abused its discretion when instructing the jury as to BNSF’s duty of care.

Short Answer: (1) No, but the sanction it imposed was an abuse of discretion; and (2) yes.

Reversed and remanded for a new trial

Facts: Mark Spotted Horse, a BNSF Railway machinist, claimed that he suffered a disabling injury when his co-worker inadvertently lowered a locomotive engine compartment hatch in his head. Spotted Horse reported the incident and was immediately taken to the hospital.…