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Date: 09-15-2023

Case Style:

Juan Manuel Lazaro v. BNSF Railway Company, et al.

Case Number: 1:20-cv-06157

Judge: Nancy L. Maldonado

Court: United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (Cook County)

Plaintiff's Attorney: Arturo Jauregui

Defendant's Attorney: Jeff Scolaro, Caroline McAuliffe for BSNF

John Huntley and Meghan Domenica Childers for P & B Intermodal

Description: Chicago, Illinois personal injury lawyers represented the Plaintiff who sued the Defendants negligence theories.

This lawsuit arose out of a personal injury claim brought by Plaintiff Juan Manuel Lazaro for injuries allegedly sustained while on the job. Lazaro alleged that he was an employee of P&B and was injured while working as a field technician at a railyard owned and operated by BNSF in Elwood, Illinois. Lazaro brought a claim against BNSF for negligence and violation of the Premises Liability Act.

On July 8, 2021, BNSF filed a Third-Party Complaint against P&B, alleging “there was in full force and effect a written agreement which generally governed the relationship between BNSF and P&B in connection with various services to be rendered by P&B employees . . . including the work in which [Lazaro] was engaged in at the time of the Incident.” (Dkt. 54 ¶ 6.) Based on this “Trailer/Container/Chassis On-Site Repair Agreement” (hereinafter, “the Agreement”), BNSF alleges that it is entitled to contribution from P&B for any losses or damages resulting from Lazaro's claims and that “P&B agreed to remain fully liable for all loss caused or contributed to by any act or omission of P&B, or its employees.” (Id. ¶¶ 7, 13-14.) BNSF's Third-Party Complaint brings the following claims against P&B: (1) contribution; (2) breach of contract; (3) contractual indemnity; and (4) declaratory judgment declaring P&B's legal obligations with respect to Lazaro's claims against BNSF.

On October 7, 2022, BNSF filed a motion to transfer its claim for a declaratory judgment (Count IV of its Third-Party Complaint) to a court in Tarrant County, Texas, based on the forum selection clause in the Agreement entered into between BNSF and P&B. The relevant provision in the Agreement states:

This Agreement, and all matters related to, associated with or arising in connection with this Agreement, shall be governed by and interpreted under the laws of the State of Texas without regard to the principles of conflicts of law of such state that would result in the application of the laws of any other jurisdiction, and any actions, proceedings or counterclaims brought by either of the parties hereto against the other on any matters whatsoever related to, associated with or arising in connection with this Agreement must be brought exclusively in a court in Tarrant County, Texas. Each party hereby waives any right to claim that Tarrant County, Texas is an inconvenient forum.

Outcome: For the foregoing reasons, BNSF's motion to transfer its claim for a declaratory judgment against P&B is denied. The parties shall file a joint status report by September 29, 2023 summarizing the relevant rulings in related cases, including the proceeding in Texas state court and Case No. 22-cv-1316 in this district, which has recently been appealed to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. In the same joint status report, the parties shall identify any other proceedings that involve related claims, and inform the Court of the status of each related case and any potential impact on the claims in this case.

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