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Railroad worker's shoulder injury claim is reinstated

Dwight Vickers sued the Grand Trunk Western Railroad, his employer for 30 years, under the Federal Employer's LIability Act (FELA), to recover for bilateral shoulder problems.  The  FELA is railroad workers' federally-established form of workers compensation.  The Railroad persuaded a Genessee County Circuit Court judge to dismiss Vickers' claim, arguing that he was too late in filing suit and had not proved that his work caused his shoulder trouble.  Vickers appealed, arguing that he had presented a genuine question of fact with regard to whether his manual labor work for the railroad damaged his shoulders over time. 

The Court of Appeals unanimously reinstated his claim.  The worker argued that he only started experiencing continuous pain and limited range of motion in 2006, making his 2008 complaint timely (within three years of when he "should have known of his injured state).  The Railroad argued that he had on occasion complained about shoulder pain for years prior to 2006.  The Court of Appeals held that given this testimony, it was up to the jury to decide whether Vickers "should have known" earlier that his work had caused him injury.   

The Court also returned the question of causation to the jury.  While Vickers' doctors testified that they could not say "with reasonable medical certainty" that repetitive work caused Vickers' rotator cuff problems, they did agree that "this was the most common cause" and that Vickers should not return to his employment as it would aggravate his shoulder difficulties.

The Court of Appeals also affirmed the lower court's decision with respect to the railroad's other six potential grounds for dismissal, meaning the jury will decide Vickers' entitlement to FELA benefits.

Thompson O’Neil, P.C.
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Traverse City, Michigan 49684
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