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Ninth Circuit Holds BNSF May Have FELA Liability For Western Fruit Express Car Shop in Spokane.

On May 18, 2010, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that our client John Schmidt can present his claims to a jury in John Schmidt v. BNSF Railway Co. and Western Fruit Express, Inc. For many years Mr. Schmidt worked in a freight car shop in Spokane, Washington. Over a 20-year period he received paychecks and correspondence from Burlington Northern and then BNSF indicating he was a railroad employee. He wants to pursue his injury claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). However, BNSF and its wholly-owned subsidiary Western Fruit Express allege that Mr. Schmidt was actually a Western Fruit Express employee and that he therefore has no FELA rights. In its May 18 opinion the Ninth Circuit ruled that even if Western Fruit Express employed Mr. Schmidt, a properly instructed jury could still reasonably find that BNSF exercised enough control over his workplace to make BNSF liable for his injury under the FELA.

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