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Kinworthy v. Soo Line Railroad Co.

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

December 30, 2013

Dennis E. Kinworthy, Appellant,
v.
Soo Line Railroad Company d/b/a CP Rail System, Respondent.

Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CV-09-16075

Randal W. LeNeave, Richard L. Carlson, Hunegs, LeNeave & Kvas, P.A., Wayzata, Minnesota (for appellant)

Jeffrey A. Abrahamson, Sweeney & Masterson, PA, St. Paul, Minnesota (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge; Stoneburner, Judge; and Ross, Judge.

SYLLABUS

Postverdict, prejudgment interest is not available in a Minnesota state-court action brought under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. § 51 (2006).

OPINION

PETERSON, Judge

A jury awarded appellant damages in an action brought under FELA in Minnesota state court, and the district court denied appellant's motion seeking interest on the jury award under Minn. Stat. § 549.09 (2012) from the date of the verdict to the date judgment was entered. Because federal substantive law governs FELA actions brought in state court, and, under federal law, prejudgment interest is not recoverable in a FELA case, we affirm.

FACTS

Appellant Dennis Kinworthy was injured in January 2009 in the scope of his employment as a conductor with respondent Soo Line Railroad Company, d/b/a CP Rail System. Appellant filed an action in Minnesota state court seeking recovery under federal statutory law. A jury found that CP violated the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA), 49 U.S.C. §§ 20701-20703 (2006), which caused appellant's injury, and awarded appellant damages of $340, 000.[1] The parties stipulated that the award should be reduced by collateral sources of $6, 000, based on appellant's receipt of wage advancements from CP, and $15, 457, based on his receipt of sickness benefits from the United States Railroad Retirement Board. The district court ordered judgment in the amount of $318, 543, which was entered after the automatic 30-day stay of judgment under Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 125 expired.

Appellant moved for costs and disbursements, which were awarded by the district court administrator. He then moved to amend the judgment, under Minn. Stat. § 549.09, subd. 1(a), (c), to include interest from the date of the special verdict until the entry of judgment. CP objected, arguing that, under Monessen Sw. Ry. v. Morgan, 486 U.S. 330, 335, 108 S.Ct. 1837, 1842 (1988), and Melin v. Burlington N. R.R., 401 N.W.2d 418, 420 (Minn.App. 1987), the issue of prejudgment interest in FELA actions is governed by federal law, and federal and state courts have held that prejudgment interest is not available under FELA. After a hearing, the district court denied appellant's motion based on its determination that binding precedent did not allow the recovery of postverdict, prejudgment interest in a FELA action. Appellant sought reconsideration under Minn. R. Gen. Pract. 115.11, which was denied. This appeal followed.

ISSUE

Is a prevailing plaintiff in a FELA action entitled to receive postverdict, prejudgment interest on the amount of recovery, based on the ...


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