Unsafe Railroad Conditions Allegedly Cause Workers To Develop Osteoarthritis


Orthopedic Surgery Expert

Court: Court of Appeals of Michigan
Jurisdiction: Federal
Case Name: Lilly v. Grand Trunk W. R.R. Co
Citation: 2019 Mich. App. LEXIS 85

Facts

This case involves a worker’s compensation claim filed under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). The plaintiff, a carman for the Grand Trunk Western Railroad Company, alleged that he developed osteoarthritis (OA) as a result of the physical trauma he suffered during the 10 years he worked for the defendant. The plaintiff required a bilateral hip replacement to treat his OA, and further alleged that this was a direct result of the defendant railroad company’s failure to provide a safe working environment.

According to the defendant, however, the plaintiff developed his osteoarthritis secondary to a congenital hip condition known as femoral acetabular impingement (FAI). The trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiff. In this motion, the defendant challenged the trial court order by rights.

Court’s Discussions with respect to Expert’s Qualification

The defendant argued the trial court abused its discretion by denying the defendant’s motion to exclude the plaintiff’s orthopedic surgery expert. 

The expert was a board-certified orthopedic surgeon who had been qualified to testify as an expert in repetitive trauma in all those states where he was licensed to practice. In order to prepare his report and testimony, the expert examined the plaintiff and reviewed all of his records. The expert also reviewed deposition transcripts and the plaintiff’s job description.

The orthopedic surgery expert referred to journal articles and trade publications that supported the concept of cumulative trauma disorder as a cause of arthritis. The expert also had the opportunity to observe carmen performing their tasks in railroad yards. The expert testified that over the expert’s years working as a carman, he performed almost 4 million squats inspecting railcar and 6 million squats inspecting the autorack, which was “excessive and repetitive.”

The expert also testified that the plaintiff was relatively young at the age of 54 and was not overweight. Based on all his research, the expert testified that the plaintiff’s prolonged overuse of his hip joints in abnormal positions with abnormal loadings wore the joints down.

The defendant had argued that femoral acetabular impingement (FAI) condition of plaintiff resulted in his arthritis. In response to this claim, the expert testified that if the plaintiff had FAI, this arteritis situation would have occurred at a very early stage. He also believed that FAI  was a contributing cause of plaintiff’s problems and that he had it at the time he had his arthritis.

Held

The trial court concluded that the expert’s testimony was based on proper facts and science. The expert spoke to the plaintiff, evaluated the plaintiff’s work history and medical history, and then, relying on his own medical expertise in treating patients with OA, determined that the plaintiff’s work tasks during his years of employment with defendant far exceeded the limits that his hip joints could withstand.

The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the defendant’s motion to strike the orthopedic surgery expert’s testimony.

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