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No Summary Judgment for Stinky Railcar

BOISE (CN) - A federal judge denied summary judgment to a Union Pacific employee who said he was seriously injured when he peed off a cliff rather than use a maintenance car's "unsanitary" restroom.

Tim Santillanes, who has worked for Union Pacific Railroad since 1978, said he had no other option during a refueling stop near Gaviota, Calif. on Jan. 7, 2010 because of the noxious state of the EC-4 railcar's toilet.

"Specifically, the EC-4's lavatory utilizes an incinerator system that burns human waste. As a result, the lavatory produces smells of burnt liquid and solid human waste so odoriferous employees cannot use it," according to the 19-page complaint. "Further, the toilet frequently overflowed."

Santillanes said that as a result, Union Pacific allows its employees to relieve themselves outside the train, and that doing so is not a violation of its rules and regulations. He says a supervisor peed just 6 feet from him the day he was injured.

"After plaintiff relieved himself, he was returning to the EC-4 when the ground beneath him collapsed," the complaint states. "As a result of the collapse, plaintiff fell approximately 100 feet to the beach below and sustained severe injuries, including a broken arm, dislocated shoulder, torn rotator cuff, lacerations, four broken ribs, sprained ankles, road rash and abrasions on his head and back."

Santillanes sued Union Pacific under the Federal Employees Liability Act and the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA). He subsequently filed a motion for partial summary judgment, arguing that Union Pacific violated the LIA by providing an unsanitary lavatory.

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge denied the motion on March 13, stating that the EC-4 is not a "locomotive" that hauls or pushes anything for purposes of the LIA and that regulations stating that locomotives be adequately equipped with a sanitary lavatory facility do not apply to the EC-4.

"Plaintiff cannot recover under the LIA," Lodge wrote. "However, plaintiff may still recover under FELA, provided he can establish at trial that Union Pacific was negligent and that such negligence played a part, even the slightest, in causing his injury."

Lodge also denied plaintiff's motion to strike defendant's affidavit in opposition to his motion for summary judgment.

He vacated the May 12 jury trial and reset it for Sept. 29 in Pocatello.

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