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Construction company wins case move to federal court

The Davis H. Elliot Construction company succeeded in removing three pending lawsuits by former employees who all allege wrongful termination from the state court to a federal one.

The plaintiffs filed together in North Carolina, but the defendant is in Kentucky. The incident that started the lawsuit actually took place in West Virginia. Federal courts can only hear certain types of claims, including those where the potential verdict is above 75,000 and the dispute is between citizens or entities in different states.

In this case, all three men claim they were sent by the Kentucky construction company to a contract job at the Wheeling Power Company that was unsafe. Their employment ended after another employee was killed and yet another injured due to Davis' negligence.

The men claim that the construction company retaliated against them for assisting the investigation into the on-the-job injuries and the violations of West Virginia's Human Rights Act. They also allege they were targeted as whistleblowers and because of their age, both protected classes under rules set down by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

There are a number of reasons that the construction company may have sought removal to the federal court system. Many employers feel like federal courts tend to be more sympathetic to companies and less so to employees, for one thing. They're even thought to be more willing to dismiss claims

In addition, there are other significant differences:

-- Federal juries come from a more widespread area, which means they're likely to include rural jurors who are hesitant to give big awards.

-- Cases tend to move along faster, especially since the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure limit the amount of discovery available.

-- Federal juries have to vote unanimously while most state courts can return a verdict with just a majority.

Finally, some companies seek to remove cases to federal court simply to make it inconvenient and more expensive for the plaintiffs and their attorneys to pursue the case, since they can't do it at their local courthouse.

Anyone who feels that they have been wrongfully terminated may find an attorney's advice is very beneficial.

Source: West Virginia Record, "Three wrongful termination lawsuits against contractor removed to federal court," Kyla Asbury, Jan. 23, 2017

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