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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 while
    dismounting from a stationary locomotive. Bean was diagnosed with a torn ACL in
    his right knee, underwent surgery, and returned to work three months later. In
    March 2005 Bean required additional surgery for his knee and during his
    recovery 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's
    medical bills and lost wages until he was cleared to return to work in September
    of 2005. Thereafter, pursuant to a disability certificate provided by his
    doctor, Bean's duties were restricted to engine duty with some light ground
    work to reduce the risk of aggravating his injury.

    Bean began settlement negotiations for his injury with SCCR
    claims representative Bill Monroe ("Monroe") in June of 2006. As a result of
    the settlement negotiations, Bean signed a "General Release and Final
    Settlement" ("the Release") releasing SCCR from all claims of liability for the
    injury. Monroe told Bean that he was not able to include any language regarding
    a permanent work restriction in the release, but that SCCR would "work with"
    Bean to accommodate his injury. Bean signed the Release knowing it contained no
    permanent work restriction and received $75,000 via the terms of the
    settlement.

    In the ten months following the settlement, Bean continued
    to perform engine duty with some light ground work without incident. In April
    2007, Bean left for a week's vacation and upon his return discovered that he
    had been re-assigned to a conductor's job. Bean complained that his condition
    prohibited him from performing the more rigorous conductor's work. SCCR then
    asked 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 some
    light ground work, but that Bean would continue to perform conductor's work in
    the "short-term" and in "emergency situations." Bean refused to sign the
    agreement because he thought it was vague as to how long he would need to work as a
    conductor. Bean did not return to work for SCCR, and in May 2007 was terminated
    for job abandonment.

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

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


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