Eighth Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment in Favor of The Kansas City Southern Railroad Company

Congratulations to Sean Hamer and his team in a success before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals affirming summary judgment in favor of The Kansas City Southern Railway Company.

On the morning of October 7, 2012, Nathan Blanton, an employee of ITS Technologies and Logistics, LLC, was working as a locomotive engineer at the Richards-Gebaur International Freight Center — a facility in Grandview, Missouri owned by The Kansas City Southern Railway Company.  Blanton was operating a locomotive to switch railcars from one track to another at the facility.  Prior to moving the locomotive on to an industrial lead track at the facility, Blanton contacted the KCSR dispatcher and was warned by the dispatcher that there were empty railcars stored on the industrial lead track.  After being warned of the empty railcars stored on the industrial lead track, Blanton operated the locomotive on to the industrial lead track and collided with the railcars.  Blanton claimed to have suffered career-ending injuries as a result of the collision.

Blanton filed a workers’ compensation claim with ITS and received a lump-sum payment after settling the claim.  Blanton then filed suit against KCSR in the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri asserting a claim for common law negligence in which he sought to recover damages in excess of $2 million for the injuries he claimed in the October 2012 incident.  District Court Judge Beth Phillips granted summary judgment for KCSR based on the affirmative defense of statutory employment, a doctrine extending the obligations and protections of the Missouri Workers’ Compensation Act to employers who have labor performed by contract.  Concluding that KCSR had demonstrated on the undisputed facts that it qualified as Blanton’s statutory employer and, therefore, Blanton’s sole remedy lie in the Act, the District Court dismissed Blanton’s Complaint.

The Eighth Circuit affirmed, agreeing with the District Court and SAKG’s arguments that KCSR was exempt from liability under Missouri’s workers’ compensation law.  As a result, all claims against KCSR remain dismissed.  Sean Hamer, Michele Sutton and Andrew Birkinsha worked together on the briefing and arguments in the District Court and the Eighth Circuit.  Nathan Blanton v. The Kansas City Southern Railway Company, Case No. 21-2345, May 10, 2022.