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February 03, 2005

Whaley v. CSX Transportation: South Carolina limits forum-shopping

Danny Whaley, a locomotive engineer who worked in Greenwood, suddenly stopped sweating one day in 2000. Doctors haven't figured out why Whaley has this condition, but recommended he stop working, since the condition led to symptoms similar to heat exhaustion when he exerted himself. Whaley found some lawyers who found some experts-for-hire to blame the condition on heat exposure at his job, and, through forum-shopping, sued in judicial hellhole Hampton County--even though he does not live there, and does not contend he was injured there. A jury awarded a million dollars.

Yesterday, the South Carolina Supreme Court recognized that the Court's earlier pronouncements on venue were broader than the statutes passed by the legislature, and put some minor limitations on forum-shopping. See Whaley v. CSX Transportation. The judgment was reversed and remanded for retrial. The Court held that CSX waived objections to the soundness of the expert testimony on causation of injury; presumably, CSX will do a better job of preserving those objections on retrial. Other incorrect, but plaintiff-friendly, evidentiary rulings were reversed. Occasional guest-blogger Leah Lorber was on the briefs for amici The American Tort Reform Association and The South Carolina Chamber of Commerce. (Jennifer Talhelm, "Location of trials in S.C. restricted", The State, Feb. 2).

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Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.