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Whitt v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, D. Nebraska

August 12, 2014

JARED L. WHITT, Plaintiff,
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, a Delaware corporation; Defendant.


JOSEPH F. BATAILLON, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on defendant's motions in limine to exclude the testimony of George Gavalla, Filing No. 101, and motion in limine regarding the testimony of Douglas Casa, Ph.D., Filing No. 111. This is an action for damages for alleged negligence under the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. §§ 51 et seq. and discrimination under the Federal Railroad Safety Act ("FRSA"), 49 U.S.C. § 20109.


The Court previously outlined the facts in this case:

Defendant Union Pacific Railroad Company employed the plaintiff as an anchor applicator machine operator. The plaintiff contends that on or about June 12, 2012, he injured his left arm while lifting a bag of anchors. The plaintiff alleges that this left arm injury may have predisposed him to the injury set forth in his second claim for relief.
In his second claim for relief, the plaintiff asserts that on June 28, 2012, he operated an anchor applicator machine on a very hot day with high humidity. The plaintiff sat down in the shade when he began to feel weak and tired, with tingling in his hands, arms, legs, and feet. When the plaintiff could not get up, his supervisor, Dave Birt, loaded him into his truck and drove toward the hospital. While en route to the hospital, Mr. Birt received a call from Manager Talmadge Dalebout. Mr. Dalebout directed Mr. Birt to bring the plaintiff back to the worksite. The plaintiff contends that Mr. Birt suggested he continue to the hospital, but Mr. Dalebout directed them to the briefing area, where they attempted to cool the plaintiff down using water and an air conditioner. The plaintiff sought medical treatment in the emergency room that evening.
After this incident, the plaintiff alleges that he attempted to return to work on July 9, 2012, but he continued to experience swelling in his left hand and pain and numbness in his hand and arm. The plaintiff contends that his supervisor took him at that time to the emergency room on July 12, 2012, because of his symptoms, and he has been off work since July 14, 2012. The plaintiff asserts that he received treatment for the residuals of heat stroke, and the doctors diagnosed him with thoracic outlet syndrome, brachial plexus lesions, carpal tunnel syndrome, and ulnar neuropathy on his left side. The plaintiff argues that these injuries directly resulted from defendant's negligence.
The plaintiff seeks to recover damages under the FELA for his claim that defendant breached its duty to exercise ordinary care to provide employees with a safe place to work. The plaintiff claims the defendant failed to implement reasonably safe methods and procedures for the performance of work, failed to implement reasonably safe methods and procedures to train the plaintiff and his supervisors to guard against heat stroke, failed to implement procedures to train supervisors to respond appropriately to heat stroke, and breached its duty to comply with its own job safety rules.
In his third claim for relief, the plaintiff asserts that the defendant's interference with his medical treatment violated the terms of the FRSA, 49 U.S.C. § 20109(c)(1), which states, "[a] railroad carrier or person covered under this section may not deny, delay, or interfere with the medical or first aid treatment of an employee who is injured during the course of employment." The plaintiff seeks to enforce the FRSA pursuant to 49 U.S.C. § 20109(d), which permits enforcement when an employee alleges discrimination in violation of 49 U.S.C. § 20109(c). The plaintiff contends the defendant discriminated against him when it delayed his medical care, and therefore, enforcement is appropriate pursuant to subsection (d). The plaintiff seeks punitive damages for the defendant's alleged FRSA violation.

Filing No. 106, Memorandum and Order, at 1-3.

Legal Standards

The standards for the admissibility of expert testimony are found in Fed.R.Evid. 702, which states:

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

It is a trial court's responsibility to act as a gatekeeper, ensuring that all expert testimony is both relevant and reliable before admitting it at trial. Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., 509 U.S. 579, 589 (1993). This requirement applies not only to testimony based on scientific knowledge, but also to testimony based on technical or ...

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