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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Supreme Court split upholds ruling on Union Pacific injury case

Supreme Court split upholds ruling on Union Pacific injury case

By | April 29, 2022

With 4-4 vote, lower-court ruling stands that stopped locomotive is not ‘in use’

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Front view of a train pulling multiple cars
Front view of a train pulling multiple cars
An eastbound Union Pacific train approaches Winfield, Ill., on Aug. 22, 2020. A split vote of the Supreme Court has upheld a ruling regarding UP’s liability in an injury case. (Trains: David Lassen)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court split 4-4 on a case involving an injury suffered by a Union Pacific employee in a decision announced Thursday, meaning a lower court ruling stands that absolves the railroad in the case.

The case involved UP engineer Bradley LeDure, who was injured when slipping on oil on the walkway of a locomotive stopped at a yard in Illinois. He argued that the railroad was liable under the Locomotive Inspection Act, which requires regular inspection of locomotives “in use.” The railroad argued that stationary locomotives are not in use [see “Supreme Court set to hear arguments …,” Trains News Wire, March 28, 2022]. The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had found for Union Pacific, leading LeDure to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Reuters reports UP lawyer Scott Ballenger said in a statement, “We are very pleased that the Supreme Court left in place the Seventh Circuit’s sensible rule that preparing a locomotive for use is not the same as using it.” The Department of Justice had filed a brief in support of LeDure, while groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce filed briefs supporting the railroad

The Supreme Court’s single-sentence decision — “The judgment is affirmed by an equally divided court” — offers no details on how justices voted, other than noting that Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not take part. She was involved when the case was decided by the 7th Circuit.

7 thoughts on “Supreme Court split upholds ruling on Union Pacific injury case

  1. So preparing a locomotive for your employer, on your employers’ property and being injured while doing so, releases any liability your employer has for your injuries and employability. Someone please name another industry where the same logic, or law, applies. UP skated because of how the Locomotive Inspection Act was worded. Bradley LeDure got screwed bigtime in this. Lawyers and judges–the scourge of our society.

  2. This seems to me to be a bit daft, where I live an Employer must provide a safe work environment and oil on a walkway is definitely not safe.
    I fail to understand where in service vs not in service has anything to do with providing a safe work environment.

  3. The logic here is completely incomprehensible. Seems to me that if an employee is on a stopped locomotive, then the locomotive is in service. How courts could reason that employer liability applies only when the locomotive is in motion defies logic.

    1. Especially since it would be very difficult to do a proper inspection when the locomotive was in motion.

  4. Stopped at a signal; is the locomotive in-service or not in-service?

    Most ludicrous decision I’ve seen in a long time. What am I missing?

  5. But if a trespasser did the same thing, would UP be liable for civil penalties? If a customer slips and falls in my office and is injured, I would be liable. Seems the wording of the agreement is at fault. Sometimes, law does not equal justice.

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