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Judge improperly dismisses injury case for lack of scientific evidence

Robert Avery worked as a laborer and welder for Grand Trunk Western Railroad for 28 years before he died as a result of a brain tumor.  Under the Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA) governing railroad employees, Avery could hold the employer responsible for injuries suffered at work, even if proof of the  "proximate cause" of the injury and damage did not rise to the normal legal threshold.  Avery's widow argued that he suffered the brain tumor and died as a result of various chemical exposures he suffered at work.  The Railroad denied any basis for proving causation, refused to provide discovery to the widow and ultimately persuaded the trial judge to dismiss the widow's claim.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals reversed the lower court and reinstated the widow's claim.  It noted, first, that there was enough suggestion of causation to warrant compelling the Railroad to participate in reasonable discovery.  Furthermore, it held that the proposed scientific evidence proffered by the widow was sufficient for admission into evidence:  the testifying expert was clearly qualified and his testimony established an "association" between the work exposures and brain tumor sufficient to meet the relaxed FELA standard. Given that the expert's testimony should not have been stricken, it was improper for the Court to grant summary disposition to the railroad, and the case was reinstated.
Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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