Nebraska SC revives injured UP conductor's lawsuit

By Chris Rizo | Dec 12, 2009

Michael McCormack

LINCOLN, Neb. (Legal Newsline) -- A Union Pacific Railroad conductor who sued the company for injuries he suffered while walking to work may sue his employer, the Nebraska Supreme Court ruled Friday.

UP Conductor Glenn Holsapple Jr. injured his knee when he stepped into a hole in an alley while walking to a Marysville, Kan., railroad depot office in 2006.

His lawsuit against the railroad was dismissed by Douglas County District Judge Russell Bowie III. The judge ruled that because Holsapple had not yet reported for work and was injured in a city-owned alley the Omaha, Neb.-based railroad was not liable.

The Supreme Court ordered the case back to trial. The justices said the man's injuries came within "the course and scope of his employment," as is defined in the Federal Employees Liability Act, which pertains to railroads and their workers.

Supreme Court Justice Michael McCormack, writing of the high court's majority, said because Holsapple was within proximity to his job site and close to the time he had to report, the railroad could be held liable for his injuries.

"It was a necessary incident of the workday for Holsapple to walk from his car to the yard office to report for duty," McCormack wrote.

The justices noted that the railroad had encouraged its employees to use the alleyway where Holsapple was injured, even going so far as posting signs saying it was for railroad use only.

"In walking from his car to report for duty, Holsapple was exposed to dangers and risks not shared by the general public. The alleyway was not open to the general public," the court ruled. "UP strategically placed signs restricting the use of the alleyway to UP employees. Further, UP was fully aware that its employees routinely traversed the alleyway to and from the east lot."

The case is Holsapple v. Union Pacific RR. Co., S-09-152, 279 Neb. 18.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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