Chapman v. Union Pacific R.R., No. 89-1329

CourtSupreme Court of Nebraska
Writing for the CourtHASTINGS; SHANAHAN
Citation467 N.W.2d 388,237 Neb. 617
Decision Date22 March 1991
Docket NumberNo. 89-1329
PartiesRichard L. CHAPMAN, Sr., Appellant, v. UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD, a Corporation, Appellee.

Page 388

467 N.W.2d 388
237 Neb. 617
Richard L. CHAPMAN, Sr., Appellant,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD, a Corporation, Appellee.
No. 89-1329.
Supreme Court of Nebraska.
March 22, 1991.

Page 389

Syllabus by the Court

1. Federal Acts: Railroads: Constitutional Law. The Federal Employers' Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. §§ 51 et seq. (1988), was enacted pursuant to the power granted to Congress for regulation of interstate commerce under the commerce clause of U.S. Const. art. I, § 8.

2. Federal Acts: Railroads: Constitutional Law. As a statute of the United States, the Federal Employers' Liability Act, enacted pursuant to the U.S. Constitution, is a part of "the supreme Law of the Land." U.S. Const. art. VI, cl. 2.

3. Constitutional Law: Federal Acts: States. The supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution binds the several states, subordinates state law, whether statutory or judicially enunciated, to a congressional enactment, and supersedes state law which conflicts with federal law.

Page 390

4. Federal Acts: Railroads: States: Negligence. The Federal Employers' Liability Act preempts state law and statutorily supplies uniform law controlling a railroad employee's claim for damages caused by negligence of the employer railroad while the employee is engaged in the railroad's interstate commerce activity.

5. Federal Acts: Railroads. Among objectives of the Federal Employers' Liability Act are protection of railroad employees' safety and health and promotion of measures to prevent injury to railroad employees.

6. Federal Acts: Railroads: Claims: Courts: Jurisdiction. Courts of the United States and courts of the several states have concurrent jurisdiction to adjudicate and dispose of claims controlled by the Federal Employers' Liability Act.

7. Federal Acts: Railroads: Claims: Courts. In disposing of a claim controlled by the Federal Employees' Liability Act, a state court may use procedural rules applicable to civil actions in the state court unless otherwise directed by the act, but a substantive issue concerning a claim under the Federal Employers' Liability Act is controlled and determined by the provisions of the act and interpretative decisions of United States courts construing the Federal Employers' Liability Act.

8. Federal Acts: Railroads: States: Negligence. If the Federal Employers' Liability Act applies to an employee's negligence claim, the act supersedes a state's statutory and common law, even though the employee seeks relief in a state court.

9. Federal Acts: Railroads: Actions: Negligence. When the Federal Employers' Liability Act applies to a railroad employee's negligence claim, the cause of action against the railroad employer and recovery for negligent injury to a railroad employee are exclusively controlled by the Federal Employers' Liability Act.

10. Demurrer: Pleadings. When ruling on a demurrer, a court must assume that the pleaded facts, as distinguished from legal conclusions, are true as alleged and must give the pleading the benefit of any reasonable inference from the facts [237 Neb. 618] alleged, but cannot assume the existence of a fact not alleged, make factual findings to aid the pleading, or consider evidence which might be adduced at trial.

11. Federal Acts: Railroads: Negligence: Proximate Cause: Proof. To recover under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, an employee must prove the employer's negligence and that the alleged negligence is a proximate cause of the employee's injury.

12. Federal Acts: Railroads: Trial: Juries: Negligence: Evidence: Proximate Cause. In a case under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, a court cannot allow a jury to speculate concerning the cause of an employee's injuries and must withhold or withdraw the employee's case from the jury unless evidence provides a basis for the reasonable inference that the employee's injury was caused by the employer's negligence.

13. Federal Acts: Railroads: Expert Witnesses: Proximate Cause: Proof. In an action under the Federal Employers' Liability Act, expert evidence is often required to establish the causal connection between the accident and some item of physical or mental injury unless the connection is a kind that would be obvious to laypersons.

Lloyd R. Bergantzel, Council Bluffs, Iowa, for appellant.

Gayla L. Fletcher and Kathleen J. Ford, Omaha, for appellee.

HASTINGS, C.J., and BOSLAUGH, WHITE, CAPORALE, SHANAHAN, GRANT, and FAHRNBRUCH, JJ.

SHANAHAN, Justice.

In two "divisions" of his amended petition, Richard L. Chapman, Sr., asserted actions against his employer, Union Pacific Railroad, a corporation, for personal injuries which Chapman sustained in an automobile accident that occurred during Chapman's employment on December 6, 1985. The district court for Douglas County struck certain allegations from "DIVISION

Page 391

I " of Chapman's amended petition and, after sustaining a demurrer to "DIVISION II," dismissed Chapman's action asserted in that division when Chapman declined to replead and stood on the allegations of Division II. At the close of evidence in Chapman's case in chief, the district court, on Union Pacific's motion, directed a verdict for the railroad. We affirm.
237 Neb. 619

CHAPMAN'S AMENDED PETITION

Division I: Federal Employers' Liability Act.

In Division I of Chapman's amended petition, under the heading "Federal Employers' Liability Act," Chapman alleged that at the time of the accident, he was a Union Pacific employee in the interstate operation of a motor vehicle supplied by Union Pacific, which was then engaged in the "business of interstate commerce and interstate transportation as a common carrier by railroad." Chapman drove the railroad's vehicle from Omaha, Nebraska, to Council Bluffs, Iowa. When Chapman stopped Union Pacific's vehicle at a stop sign in Council Bluffs, an automobile, apparently driven by an uninsured motorist, struck the rear end of the Union Pacific vehicle.

According to Chapman's amended petition, Union Pacific was negligent by:

(a) Failing to provide Plaintiff with a vehicle equipped with headrests. (b) Failure to provide Plaintiff with vehicle with both seatbelts and shoulder harness. (c) Failure to comply with Iowa uninsured/underinsured requirements.... (e) Failure to inform Plaintiff that he was not covered by any type of uninsured or underinsured coverage.

Chapman concluded that Union Pacific's "negligence was a violation of the Federal Employers' Liability Act," 45 U.S.C. §§ 51 et seq. (1988).

Division II: Negligence.

In Division II of his amended petition, under the heading "Negligence," Chapman, by reference, incorporated and reasserted all allegations contained in Division I. Chapman then alleged that Union Pacific failed to notify him that "he was not covered by an automobile insurance policy which contained uninsured or underinsured coverage" and failed to notify Chapman that "he should acquire proper automobile insurance," since Union Pacific, a self-insurer, see Neb.Rev.Stat. § 60-562 (Reissue 1988), did not provide "uninsured/underinsured" motorist protection on its vehicles. Those omissions, Chapman alleged, constituted negligence which resulted in Chapman's damages from the vehicular accident described in Division I of the amended petition.

237 Neb. 620

UNION PACIFIC'S PLEADINGS

In a motion under Neb.Rev.Stat. § 25-833 (Reissue 1989) (irrelevant matter stricken), Union Pacific requested, among other things, that paragraph 9(c) and (e) of Division I in Chapman's amended petition be stricken as irrelevant to Chapman's action under the Federal Employers' Liability Act. Also, Union Pacific demurred to Division II of Chapman's amended petition and, pursuant to Neb.Rev.Stat. § 25-806 (Reissue 1989), claimed that the amended petition failed to state a cause of action, since the Federal Employers' Liability Act was Chapman's "exclusive remedy" under the circumstances.

DISTRICT COURT'S JUDGMENTS

The district court sustained Union Pacific's motion and struck paragraph 9(c) and (e) from Division I of Chapman's amended petition. The court also sustained Union Pacific's demurrer to Division II of Chapman's amended petition. When Chapman declined to replead, but stood on the allegations of his amended petition, the court dismissed Division II of Chapman's amended petition. Chapman's case proceeded to trial on Division I with paragraph 9(c) and (e) deleted or stricken by the court. At the conclusion of Chapman's case in chief, the district court directed a verdict for Union Pacific.

ASSIGNMENTS OF ERROR

Chapman contends that the district court erred (1) in striking paragraph 9(c) and (e)

Page 392

from Division I of Chapman's amended petition, (2) in sustaining the demurrer to Division II, and (3) in directing a verdict for Union Pacific.

FEDERAL EMPLOYERS' LIABILITY ACT

The Federal Employers' Liability Act provides in pertinent part:

Every common carrier by railroad while engaging in commerce between any of the several States or Territories, or between any of the States and Territories, or between the District of Columbia and any of the States or Territories, or between the District of Columbia or any of the States or Territories and any foreign nation or nations, shall be liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is employed by such carrier in commerce, [that is, [237 Neb. 621] liability] for such injury or death resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier, or by reason of any defect or insufficiency, due to its negligence, in its cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, roadbed, works, boats, wharves, or other equipment.

Any employee of a carrier, any part of whose duties as such employee shall be the furtherance of interstate or foreign commerce; or shall, in any way directly or closely and substantially, affect such commerce as above set forth shall, for the purposes of this chapter, be considered as being employed by such...

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27 practice notes
  • Monarch v. Southern Pacific Transp. Co., No. A081178
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 25 Marzo 1999
    ...a state's common and statutory law, even though the employee seeks relief in a state court." (Chapman v. Union Pacific R.R. (1991) 237 Neb. 617, 467 N.W.2d 388, 393.) Directing our attention to Pikop v. Burlington Northern R. Co. (Minn.1986) 390 N.W.2d 743, appellant maintains that where, a......
  • Ratliff v. Norfolk Southern Ry. Co., No. 34156.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 12 Marzo 2009
    ...by the provisions of the act and interpretative decisions of federal courts construing the [FELA][.]" Chapman v. Union Pacific R.R., 237 Neb. 617, 467 N.W.2d 388, 393 (1991) (citing, e.g., Monessen Southwestern R. Co. v. Morgan, 486 U.S. 330, 108 S.Ct. 1837, 100 L.Ed.2d 349 (1988); St. Loui......
  • Gardner v. CSX Transp., Inc., No. 24002.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 25 Noviembre 1997
    ...Corp., 960 F.2d 1156, 1158 (3d Cir.1992); Adams v. CSX Transp., Inc., 899 F.2d 536, 539 (6th Cir.1990); Chapman v. Union Pacific R.R., 237 Neb. 617, 467 N.W.2d 388, 393 (1991). See also King, 855 F.2d at 1488 n. The FELA, 45 U.S.C. § 51 (1939), states, in relevant part: Every common carrier......
  • Wagner v. Union Pacific R. Co., No. A-00-1020.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • 26 Marzo 2002
    ...and courts of the several states have concurrent jurisdiction over claims controlled by the FELA. Chapman v. Union Pacific Railroad, 237 Neb. 617, 467 N.W.2d 388 (1991); Crafton v. Union Pacific RR. Co., 7 Neb.App. 793, 585 N.W.2d 115 (1998). See 45 U.S.C. § 56. In disposing of a claim cont......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
27 cases
  • Monarch v. Southern Pacific Transp. Co., No. A081178
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • 25 Marzo 1999
    ...a state's common and statutory law, even though the employee seeks relief in a state court." (Chapman v. Union Pacific R.R. (1991) 237 Neb. 617, 467 N.W.2d 388, 393.) Directing our attention to Pikop v. Burlington Northern R. Co. (Minn.1986) 390 N.W.2d 743, appellant maintains that where, a......
  • Ratliff v. Norfolk Southern Ry. Co., No. 34156.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 12 Marzo 2009
    ...by the provisions of the act and interpretative decisions of federal courts construing the [FELA][.]" Chapman v. Union Pacific R.R., 237 Neb. 617, 467 N.W.2d 388, 393 (1991) (citing, e.g., Monessen Southwestern R. Co. v. Morgan, 486 U.S. 330, 108 S.Ct. 1837, 100 L.Ed.2d 349 (1988); St. Loui......
  • Gardner v. CSX Transp., Inc., No. 24002.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of West Virginia
    • 25 Noviembre 1997
    ...Corp., 960 F.2d 1156, 1158 (3d Cir.1992); Adams v. CSX Transp., Inc., 899 F.2d 536, 539 (6th Cir.1990); Chapman v. Union Pacific R.R., 237 Neb. 617, 467 N.W.2d 388, 393 (1991). See also King, 855 F.2d at 1488 n. The FELA, 45 U.S.C. § 51 (1939), states, in relevant part: Every common carrier......
  • Wagner v. Union Pacific R. Co., No. A-00-1020.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of Nebraska
    • 26 Marzo 2002
    ...and courts of the several states have concurrent jurisdiction over claims controlled by the FELA. Chapman v. Union Pacific Railroad, 237 Neb. 617, 467 N.W.2d 388 (1991); Crafton v. Union Pacific RR. Co., 7 Neb.App. 793, 585 N.W.2d 115 (1998). See 45 U.S.C. § 56. In disposing of a claim cont......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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