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Railroad Injury Blog

Boblitz v. SSP Railroad Holding, LLC, et al.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Yesterday, in a case counseled by Matt and Pat, a Baltimore City Jury returned a verdict in the amount of $750,000.00 on behalf of a Conductor who slipped on snow and ice covered debris as he was cutting a line of rail cars. The Plaintiff injured his low back in that accident and as a result, underwent surgery. The Jury determined that the Plaintiff was unable to return to work in any capacity because of his back injury. In addition, despite finding his claim barred by limitations, determined that the Railroad was negligent in causing injuries to the Plaintiff’s knees. The jury determined that the Defendant had failed to eliminate certain job related risk factors known to cause injuries to the lower extremities.

By Matt Darby

Eubanks v. CSXT

Friday, January 27, 2012

In October, 2008, Matt and Pat were counsel in the case of Clifton Eubanks v. CSX Transportation, Inc., Case No. 24-C-07-007063 OT (Circuit Court for Baltimore City). That matter involved a 53 year old conductor who slipped and fell as he was crossing a section of track. Mr. Eubanks injured his right knee as a result of that slip and fall. That injury required arthroscopic surgery. The jury awarded Mr. Eubanks $569,660.00 in economic damages and $875,000.00 in non-economic pain and suffering damages. Mr. Eubanks was found to be 17 percent comparatively negligent and partially liable for his injuries. After accounting for that, his total award was $1,199,067.80.

By Matt Darby

Recent Whistleblower Decisions

Friday, January 20, 2012

The following are significant decisions that were recently issued by the U.S. Department of Labor pursuant to the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA), 49 U.S.C. §20109.

  1. On August 22, 2011, the Department of Labor issued an Order directing the Union Pacific Railroad Company to pay back wages in the amount of $3,437.10, punitive damages in the amount of $150,000.00 and compensatory damages for pain and suffering in the amount of $10,000.00 to a  railroader who alleged and proved that he was pulled out of service, charged with rule violations and permanently dismissed from service in retaliation for reporting safety concerns on the Railroad’s safety hotline. The Railroad was also ordered to reinstate the railroader to his former position with all the pay, benefits, and rights he had before his discharge.
  2. On August 15, 2011, the Department of Labor directed the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway Company to pay compensatory damages in the amount of $125,000.00 and punitive damages in the $150,000.00 to a railroader who alleged and proved that she had been suspended for 30 days without pay in retaliation for notifying the Railroad of a work-related personal injury. She also alleged and proved that the Railroad brought charges against her in a disciplinary proceeding in retaliation for requesting medical and/or first aid treatment and for following the orders and the treatment plan of her treating physician.
  3. On August 8, 2011, the Department of Labor issued an Order directing Norfolk Southern Railway Company to pay compensatory damages in the amount of $20,750.11 and punitive damages in the amount of $75,000.00 to a railroader who alleged and proved that he had been suspended in retaliation for reporting a workplace injury. 
  4. On August 5, 2011, the Department of Labor directed the Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company to pay compensatory damages in the amount of $5,000.00 and punitive damages in the amount of $125,000.00 to a railroader who alleged and proved that he suffered retaliation when he reported a workplace injury. The Railroad was also ordered to pay the railroader back pay and promote him to the position of Locomotive Engineer.

By Matt Darby

The McBride Decision

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Supreme Court issued its decision in CSX Transportation v. McBride on June 23, 2011. The Court in a 5-4 opinion authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg reaffirmed the relaxed causation standard in FELA cases that hold that a railroader must only show that his or her injury was the result “in whole or in part” of the negligence of the railroad. This holding was a direct rebuttal of the railroad’s attempt to make it more difficult for railroaders to prove their cases in court by requiring an injured railroader to prove proximate causation.

This is a very important decision that continues to protect the rights of injured railroad workers.

Link to the decision here.

By Matt Darby

Bickerstaff, et al. v. CSXT

Monday, January 16, 2012

In March, 2007, Matt was co-counsel in the case of Richard Bickerstaff, et al. v. CSX Transportation, Inc., Case No. 24-C-04-009479 (Circuit Court for Baltimore City). That matter involved a cluster of nine railroaders who alleged that they developed repetitive trauma injuries to their knees as a result of their employment with CSX Transportation, Inc. Those jobs required significant walking, throwing of railroad switches, coupling of air hoses and climbing cars. Most of the railroaders required surgery to repair the damage to their knees. At the close of trial, the jury returned a verdict in favor of the railroaders in the total amount of $19,300,000.00. Individually, those verdicts ranged from $765,000.00 awarded to a 52 year old trainman, who was still working at the time of trial, and claiming no future economic damages, to a verdict of $4,800,000.00 awarded to a 51 year old trainman who claimed that his work-life had been shortended because of the injuries to his knees.

By Matt Darby

Federal Whistleblower Protection For Injured Railroaders

Monday, January 16, 2012

Railroad employees have long recognized that their employers have a well established culture of harassment and intimidation with regard to the reporting of work related injuries. As a result of this harassment, it is a violation of Federal Law for a railroad to: “discharge, discriminate, demote, suspend, reprimand, or in any way discriminate, in whole or in part, against an employee that notifies or attempts to notify the railroad of a work related personal injury or illness.” 49U.S.C. 20109(a)(4). If the railroad violates any of these rights, the employee has the right to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. If successful, the employee is entitled to reinstatement, back pay with interest, attorneys fees and potential punitive damages up to $250,000.00.

Link to the OSHA Whistleblower Factsheet here.

By Matt Darby

The Importance Of CSX Transportation v. McBride

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On March 29, 2011, the United Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the case of CSX Transportation v. McBride. The Supreme Court’s decision will be important because it will determine whether courts in future FELA (Federal Employers’ Liability Act) cases will continue with the relaxed causation standard. This standard holds that a railroader must only show his or her injury was the result “in whole or in part” of the negligence of the railroad. CSXT has requested that the Court adopt and apply to the FELA more stringent standard requiring an injured railroader to prove proximate causation or that the injury resulted from the railroad’s negligent conduct that was “natural, probable, and foreseeable.”

McBride, a locomotive engineer for CSXT, successfully convinced a jury that an injury to his hand was caused by his forced use of a wide bodied locomotive to perform local switching operations. McBride alleged:

  1. the use of wide bodied locomotives for local switching operations was inappropriate:
  2. he had never been trained to use a wide bodied cab in local switching operations; and
  3. the constant use of the locomotive’s hand operated independent brake caused his hand to become fatigued to the point where he sustained an injury.

McBride underwent two surgeries to his hand and continued to experience problems related to his injury after he returned to work. The jury ultimately determined that CSXT was negligent in the manner it configured the train set-up because it caused McBride to suffer the fatigue that ultimately led to his hand injury. McBride was awarded $184,250.00 in damages.

At issue before the Supreme Court was the trial court’s jury instruction provided to the jury that indicated as follows:

“Defendant “caused or contributed to” plaintiff’s injury if defendant’s negligence played a part – no matter how small – in bringing about the injury. The mere fact that an injury occurred does not necessarily mean that the injury was caused by negligence.”

The trial court rejected CSXT’s requested jury instruction that contained the element of proximate cause and stated as follows: “When I use the expression “proximate cause,” I mean any cause which, in natural or probable sequence, produced the injury complained of . . .”

A decision in the McBridecase is expected sometime later this year.

By Matt Darby

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