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Cavanaugh v. Western Maryland Railway Co

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Cavanaugh (plaintiff) sued Western Maryland Railway Co (defendant)under the Federal Employers Liabilities Act (FELA).

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A defendant may assert a compulsory counterclaim under FELA.c

    Facts.

    Plaintiff sued the defendant, his employer, under FELA stemming from a train collision, which the plaintiff was the engineer of one of the trains. The defendant counterclaimed arguing that the plaintiff’s negligence was the cause of the train collision. Plaintiff argued the defendant was barred from making a counterclaim under FELA.

    Issue.

    Whether a defendant may assert a compulsory counterclaim under FELA.

    Held.

    Yes. A defendant may assert a compulsory counterclaim under FELA

    Discussion.

    An employer may sue an employee for property damages, as the defendant did here, in the form of a counterclaim. Since the defendant’s claim is a compulsory counterclaim and must be brought now or else the defendant will be barred from ever asserting it again, the claim is not barred under FELA. While under FELA an employer cannot use any exemptions to relieve them from liability, they may still bring counterclaims for property damage in the course of the plaintiff’s employment. Nothing bars a counterclaim under FELA, if the defendant brought suit then the plaintiff would be required to assert his counterclaim under FELA, it follows that it would make no sense to not allow the defendant to bring their claim in the present situation.


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