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Railroad Injury Blog

OSHA Orders Midwest Railroad To Pay Three Railroaders $650,000 In Back Wages And Damages

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On July 19, 2012, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a news release indicating that it had ordered the Illinois and Central Railroad and the Chicago and Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad to pay over $650,000.00 to three Railroaders who were discriminated against in violation of the FRSA.

The first case involved an Illinois Central Railroad Conductor who sustained a job related injury who was subsequently fired for alleged rules violations. OSHA determined that he was terminated in reprisal for reporting the work related injury. He was awarded back wages, vacation pay, payment of his medical bills, attorney’s fees and compensatory and punitive damages.

The second case involved an Illinois Central Railroad Carman who sustained a job related injury who was fired for allegedly violating the company’s injury reporting policy. OSHA determined that the injury was properly reported and ordered the Railroad to pay him back wages, compensatory damages and punitive damages.

The third case involved a Chicago and Fort Wayne & Eastern Railroad Conductor who was fired for raising safety concerns while serving as his role as local chairman for the union. The Railroad alleged that he had been fired for failing to pass an engineer certification test. OSHA ordered the Railroad to provide the Railroader with training and another opportunity to pass the test. Upon him passing the test, he was to then be reinstated. The Railroad was also ordered to pay back wages, compensatory damages and punitive damages.

Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health indicated in the news release that “It is critically important that railroad employees in theMidwestand across the nation know that OSHA intends to defend the rights of workers who report injuries and safety concerns.” He also stated “We will use the full force of the law to make sure that workers who are retaliated against for reporting health and safety concerns are made whole.”

A copy of the OSHA news release can be found here.

A link to a Chicago Tribune news article can be found here.

By Matt Darby

Repetitive Trauma Injuries

Friday, June 29, 2012

The terms repetitive trauma injury refers to a disorder that can affect bones, muscles, tendons, nerves and other anatomical features. It develops when micro traumas, or minute injuries, occur repeatedly from overuse or misappropriate use of a body part or external force applied to the body. A study in 1993 found that repetitive trauma injuries accounted for one of every four lost time injuries reported in the United States.

Injuries to the shoulders, arms, hands and wrists such as tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome and ulnar neuropathy can be caused by repetitive trauma. Risk factors for the development of these types of injuries include performing repetitive and forceful work in an awkward position and the use of vibrating tools. Railroaders who routinely use both pneumatic and non-power hand tools, move and carry heavy equipment and couple air hoses are at an increased risk of developing upper extremity repetitive trauma injuries.

Injuries in the form of osteoarthritis to the hips, knees, feet and ankles can also be caused by repetitive trauma. Risk factors for the development of these types of injuries include walking on uneven surfaces, repeatedly bending and stooping and working in awkward postures. Railroaders who routinely walk long distances across ballast, climb rail cars, squat to throw switches and couple air hoses and in the past, dismounted moving equipment, are at an increased risk of developing lower extremity repetitive trauma injuries.

By Matt Darby

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

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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