Railroad Company Obtains Summary Judgment on Appeal Based on Inadmissible Expert Report

The plaintiff in this case brought a wrongful death action against the Illinois Central Railroad Company pursuant to the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA) for the death of her husband, Charles Jackson, Jr., who had worked on the railroad. Illinois Central’s motions for summary judgment, to strike the plaintiff’s expert, Michael J. Ellenbecker, were denied. Illinois Central’s petition for an interlocutory appeal was granted.

In its review, the court found that Ellenbecker’s opinions submitted in opposition of the motion for summary judgment was inadmissible since they were signed by the plaintiff and not Ellenbecker. As the court held: “Here, Jackson swore that Ellenbecker would offer various opinions at trial about asbestos in the railroad industry. These opinions constituted inadmissible hearsay because they were offered for their truth and meet no hearsay exception. M.R.E. 801(c); M.R.E. 803. Therefore, Ellenbecker’s opinions in the designation were incompetent to oppose summary judgment, and the trial court erred by denying the motion to strike.”

The court went on to apply de novo review in granting Illinois Central summary judgment. In its ruling, the court stated: “Because the opinions in the Ellenbecker designation constituted inadmissible hearsay, the trial court erred by failing to strike the designation from the summary-judgment evidence. The supplemental response also was improper summary-judgment evidence because it constituted inadmissible hearsay, and it was not filed in the record. Due to the absence of evidence creating a genuine issue of material fact on the elements of Jackson’s FELA claim, we reverse the denial of summary judgment and render judgment in favor of Illinois Central.”

Read the full decision here.