Opinion handed down May 1, 2012
Eddie Cluck sued his employer, Union Pacific Railroad Company, under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA), 45 U.S.C. section 51, for an injury caused by a co-worker. Cluck was injured when the co-worker’s personal pistol, which was packed in the co-worker’s luggage, accidentally discharged while Cluck was unloading the luggage from a company van. The court was faced with determining whether the doctrine of respondeat superior applies to FELA actions, and if so, whether the court should apply the test to the co-worker’s act of packing a loaded pistol in his luggage or simply his failure to warn anyone about it. The plaintiff argued that respondeat superior does not apply to FELA actions, or in the alternative, should be applied more liberally. The trial court ruled differently, however, finding that traditional common law respondeat superior principles are fully applicable to FELA actions. Because Cluck never asserted that the injury-causing act was in furtherance of the employer’s interests, the trial court ruled that his proposed jury instructions failed to accurately state the applicable law. As a result, Union Pacific prevailed. On appeal, the Supreme Court of Missouri affirmed the trial court’s rejection of Cluck’s proposed jury instructions by a vote of 5-2.