The Locomotive Inspection Act (“LIA”), codified at 49 U.S.C. § 20701 indicates as follows:
Requirements for use: A railroad carrier may use or allow to be used a locomotive or tender and its parts and appurtenances:
- are in proper condition and safe to operate with unnecessary danger of personal injury;
- have been inspected as required under this chapter and regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Transportation under this chapter; and
- can withstand every test prescribed by the Secretary under this chapter.
The LIA places an absolute duty on a railroad to comply with safety standards. Under the LIA, it is unlawful for a railroad to operate any locomotive on its rail lines unless it has been inspected, is able to withstand prescribed safety tests and is safe to operate. A railroad’s violation of the Act results in strict liability. What that means is that there is no consideration regarding whether the Railroad was negligent with respect to whether it caused a Railroader’s injuries. Negligence was discussed earlier in this blog here. The issue of negligence is not relevant to the claim that the Railroad violated the LIA, since the LIA imposes an absolute duty on the Railroad for injuries cause in whole or part by violations of the Act. In addition to the absolute duty placed on the Railroad, there is no consideration whether the injured Railroader was negligent or whether his or her negligence played any part in causing his or her injuries. In other words, if a jury determines the Railroad violated the LIA, it cannot then consider whether the injured Railroader was contributorily negligent and then reduce his or her damages for comparitive fault. Contributory and comparitive negligence was discussed earlier in this blog here.
By Matt Darby