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Shane M. Bean v. South Carolina Central Railroad Co., Inc.

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  • Shane M. Bean v. South Carolina Central Railroad Co., Inc.

    Date Decided: Mar 2nd, 2011
    Decided By: South Carolina Court of Appeals (State)
    Court: Court of Appeals of South Carolina
    Citation: 709 S.E.2d 99

    Background:
    In August 2004, Shane M. Bean ("Bean") was injured whiledismounting from a stationary locomotive. Bean was diagnosed with a torn ACL inhis right knee, underwent surgery, and returned to work three months later. InMarch 2005 Bean required additional surgery for his knee and during hisrecovery suffered a fall that shattered his knee cap requiring yet another surgery.Bean's employer South Carolina Central Railroad Co., Inc. ("SCCR") paid all of Bean'smedical bills and lost wages until he was cleared to return to work in Septemberof 2005. Thereafter, pursuant to a disability certificate provided by hisdoctor, Bean's duties were restricted to engine duty with some light groundwork to reduce the risk of aggravating his injury.

    Bean began settlement negotiations for his injury with SCCRclaims representative Bill Monroe ("Monroe") in June of 2006. As a result ofthe settlement negotiations, Bean signed a "General Release and FinalSettlement" ("the Release") releasing SCCR from all claims of liability for theinjury. Monroe told Bean that he was not able to include any language regardinga permanent work restriction in the release, but that SCCR would "work with"Bean to accommodate his injury. Bean signed the Release knowing it contained nopermanent work restriction and received $75,000 via the terms of thesettlement.

    In the ten months following the settlement, Bean continuedto perform engine duty with some light ground work without incident. In April2007, Bean left for a week's vacation and upon his return discovered that hehad been re-assigned to a conductor's job. Bean complained that his conditionprohibited him from performing the more rigorous conductor's work. SCCR thenasked Bean to supply them with a full medical release clarifying his condition.Upon receipt of that document, SCCR provided Bean with a "return-to-work" agreement.The agreement stated that Bean would be able to return to work and perform engine duty with somelight ground work, but that Bean would continue to perform conductor's work inthe "short-term" and in "emergency situations." Bean refused to sign theagreement because he thought it was vague as to how long he would need to work as aconductor. Bean did not return to work for SCCR, and in May 2007 was terminatedfor job abandonment.

    In August 2007, Bean filed a complaint against SCCR fornegligence pursuant to the Federal Employers' Liability Act ("FELA"), 42 U.S.C. 51, and for violations ofthe Locomotive Inspection Act ("LIA"), 49U.S.C. 20701. SCCR filed a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing the ReleaseBean signed prevented him from asserting any personal injury claims againstSCCR. Bean responded that the Release was void either for fraud, mutualmistake, or lack of consideration, and thus he should not be barred frombringing his negligence claim.

    The lower court granted SCCR's Motion for Summary Judgmenton the grounds that the Release was validly executed and Bean appeals.


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