Friday, March 31, 2006

CoA reverses grant of summary judgment in railroad asbestos case

Christiansen v. Union Pac. R.R. Co., 2006 IT App 117

Christiansen worked for Union Pacific in 1951 installing and removing asbestos containing components. In 1995 he retired because of breathing problems and went on disability. Although he suspected asbestosis, doctors diagnosed him with congestion, pneumonia, and other non-asbestos related conditions. In 2002, Christiansen filed suit against Union Pacific for negligence. Later that year he was diagnosed with asbestosis.

The trial court granted summary judgment Union Pacific’s claim that the three-year statute of limitations for FELA (Federal Employer’s Liability Act) claims had run. It denied Union Pacific’s motion for summary judgment on the merits.


(1) FELA negligence claims impose a lighter burden on plaintiff’s than ordinary negligence claims. The plaintiff need only show “slight negligence.” Christensen proffered sufficient evidence of negligence, by way of an affidavit from an asbestos expert, to survive summary judgment on the merits.
(2) The parties agree on the facts as they related to summary judgment, but disagree on their interpretation. The proper interpretation of the facts should therefore be left to the factfinder, and summary judgment was inappropriate.


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