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Hill v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

United States District Court, D. Idaho

January 24, 2019

MICHAEL HILL, Plaintiff, and KASEY A. JORGENSEN, Plaintiff,
v.
UNION PACIFIC RAILROAD COMPANY, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER

          Honorable Candy W. Dale United States Magistrate Judge

         INTRODUCTION

         The Court has before it Union Pacific Railroad Company's motions to dismiss. Idaho residents Kasey Jorgensen and Michael Hill are employed by Union Pacific; each was injured during the course and scope of his employment while working outside the state of Idaho. Each sued Union Pacific in a separate action under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. § 51 et. seq., which provides remedies in the form of money damages for on-the-job injuries incurred by employees not covered by state workers' compensation laws. Union Pacific moves to dismiss, claiming the Court lacks personal jurisdiction over it. Fed. Rule Civ. P. 12(b)(2).

         The Court consolidated the matters for the purpose of determining the virtually identical motions to dismiss, and finds the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record without the need for oral argument. Dist. Idaho Loc. Civ. R. 7.1(d). After carefully considering the parties' briefs and pertinent authorities, the Court issues the following decision denying both motions.

         FACTS[1]

         1. Michael Hill

         Michael Hill is a resident and citizen of the state of Idaho, and he has been employed by Union Pacific in Twin Falls, Idaho, since 2001. On December 16, 2016, he was employed as a gang machinist. Although he resides in Twin Falls, Hill is required to travel outside the state of Idaho for work on behalf of Union Pacific. Hill receives his assignments from Union Pacific in Idaho, and his work is overseen in Idaho. Hill receives his paycheck from Union Pacific in the state of Idaho, and he receives work benefits from Union Pacific in the state of Idaho.

         On December 16, 2016, Union Pacific assigned Hill work from Twin Falls, Idaho, and he reported to work in Kansas. Hill alleges he did not have the proper equipment to remove a wheel off an axle from a tie crane, and he was forced to use a sledge hammer instead. While swinging the sledge hammer, he injured his shoulder and bicep, and suffered injuries. Hill returned to Idaho and received the majority of his medical treatment for his injuries in the Twin Falls area.

         2. Kasey Jorgensen

         Jorgensen is a resident and citizen of the state of Idaho, and he has been employed by Union Pacific in Pocatello, Idaho, since 2011. Although he resides in Pocatello, Jorgensen is required to travel outside the state for work on behalf of Union Pacific. Like Hill, Jorgensen receives his assignments from Union Pacific in the state of Idaho, and his work is overseen in the state of Idaho. When he travels from Pocatello to the place he is assigned to work, Union Pacific reimburses him for his travel expenses. Jorgensen receives his paycheck from Union Pacific in the state of Idaho, and he receives work benefits from Union Pacific in the state of Idaho.

         On November 7, 2017, Jorgensen was working for Union Pacific as a roadway machinist/heavy equipment mechanic. After receiving his work assignment in Pocatello, he reported to work in Wyoming. While troubleshooting a fuel truck together with the driver of the truck, Jorgensen checked under the hood. The truck driver slammed the hood down, hitting Jorgensen between the shoulder blades and causing physical injuries. Jorgensen received all of his medical treatment for his injuries in the Pocatello area after the accident when he returned to Idaho.

         3. Union Pacific

         Union Pacific is a Delaware corporation with its headquarters and principal place of business located in Omaha, Nebraska, where it also operates a central operations center for train dispatching and network operations monitoring. Union Pacific operates in twenty-three states, with a total rail system of 32, 122 miles. Of its 32, 122 miles of rail trackage, 848 miles, or 2.64% of its total rail system, are located in Idaho. Union Pacific employs 41, 000 people. Of those employees, eight hundred employees, or 1.95% of the company's total workforce, are employed in the state of Idaho. Plaintiffs are two of these eight hundred employees.

         Although both Hill and Jorgensen testified in their affidavits that Union Pacific assigns work to them in Twin Falls and Pocatello, respectively, it is not clear whether Union Pacific maintains offices or specific work sites in the state of Idaho. Union Pacific is authorized by the Secretary of State to transact business in the state of Idaho, and it is currently registered to do so. Decl. of Gabiola Ex. A. (Dkt. 18-2.) Union Pacific maintains a registered agent for service of process in the state of Idaho as well. Decl. of Gabiola Ex. B. (Dkt. 18-2.)

         DISCUSSION

         1. Motion to Dismiss Standard

         Under Fed. Rule Civ. P. 12(b)(2), Plaintiffs bear the burden of proving jurisdiction is appropriate. Schwarzenegger v. Fred Martin Motor Co., 374 F.3d 797, 800 (9th Cir. 2004) (citing Sher v. Johnson, 911 F.2d 1357, 1361 (9th Cir. 1990)). Where “the [defendant's] motion is based on written materials rather than an evidentiary hearing, ‘the plaintiff need only make a prima facie showing of jurisdictional facts.'” Id. The Court looks to the pleadings and affidavits to determine whether the plaintiff has made a prima facie showing of personal jurisdiction. Id. “Although the plaintiff cannot ‘simply rest on the bare allegations of its complaint,' uncontroverted allegations in the complaint must be taken as true.” Dole Food Co., Inc. v. Watts, 303 F.3d 1104, 1108 (9th Cir. 2002) (quoting Amba Marketing Systems, Inc. v. Jobar Int'l, Inc., 551 F.2d 784, 787 (9th Cir. 1977)). “Conflicts between parties over statements contained in affidavits must be resolved in the plaintiff's favor.” Schwarzenegger, 374 ...


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