Rookaird v. BNSF Railway Co., No. 16-35786 (9th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
After a jury found that BNSF violated the anti-retaliation provision of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) when it fired plaintiff for, in part, refusing to stop performing an air-brake test on a 42-car train that he was tasked with moving, plaintiff was awarded over $1.2 million in damages.
The Ninth Circuit held that the district court did not err in denying BNSF's motion for judgment as a matter of law with respect to whether plaintiff engaged in FRSA-protected activity. Therefore, the panel affirmed the district court's grant of judgment as a matter of law on that claim. However, the panel reversed the district court's grant of summary judgment to plaintiff on the contributing-factor issue because the district court conflated plaintiff's prima facie showing, which he successfully made as a matter of law, with his substantive case, which should have gone to the jury. The panel held that plaintiff was entitled to summary judgment on the contributing-factor element of his prima facie showing, but that he was not entitled to summary judgment on his substantive case.