The Federal Employers Liability Act Statute

The Federal Employers Liability Act is commonly called FELA. FELA statutes allow railroad workers and their families to bring a lawsuit against their employer for an unsafe condition that caused a work-related injury. This law is unique, especially in New York State where injured workers generally can’t bring lawsuit to their employers because of the New York State Workers’ Compensation Preclusion.

Under FELA, injured railroad workers are eligible to collect all past and future wages, medical expenses, damages for pain and suffering, or any other financial losses incurred. Hach & Rose, LLP, effectively pursues FELA cases on behalf of our clients in New York and nation wide.

This past month, Hach & Rose, LLP, resolved a FELA case for $900,000 for our client who fell approximately six feet. The fall was caused by an improperly and insufficiently illuminated stairwell. He suffered injury to his right ankle, foot, and toes. The narrow treads were in violation of applicable safety codes, combined with poor illumination. As a result of this injury, he underwent ankle fusion surgery.

If you have been injured at work, it is important to seek immediate advice from a lawyer who is aware of and experienced with the FELA statute. The FELA lawyers at Hach & Rose, LLP are experienced at handling a wide range of FELA cases and can put this experience to work for you. Call Hach & Rose, LLP, at 212-779-0057 or 866-LAWS-USA today for the assistance you need.

Decision Johnson vs Amtrak Respective Counsel

Negligence / Federal Employer’s Liability Act / Standard of Care / Federal Railroad Safety
Act / Federal Preclusion / Causal Link / Proof of Lost Wages
Summary judgment is not appropriate in an action by a railroad engineer alleging injury from an improperly lubricated switch since Plaintiff has satisfied the requirement for standard of care and genuine issues of material fact exist. Plaintiff sufficiently established a standard of care under the relaxed burden of proof required by the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (“FELA”) through expert testimony about industry practices and customs and Defendant’s failure to adhere to its own internal regulations.

Genuine issues of material fact remain regarding whether Defendant breached that standard, which must be decided by a jury. Plaintiff’s claims are not precluded by 49 C.F.R. § 213.103 because there is a genuine issue of material fact whether the work area around the switch constituted a walkway; earlier precedent has held that regulation does not preclude FELA claims regarding the use of ballast in walkways; federal preclusion is an affirmative defense and there is a genuine issue of material fact; and summary judgment should not be granted given the importance of jury remedy in FELA actions. There is a genuine issue of material fact whether the evidence will establish a causal link between Defendant’s conduct and Plaintiff’s injuries.

Defendant argues that Plaintiff’s injuries could have come from unrelated activities while Plaintiff’s medical evidence and expert testimony all support a causal relationship. A genuine issue of material fact exists as to whether Plaintiff has sufficiently proven lost wages, specifically in regards to whether Plaintiff worked immediately following the injury and whether he could return to physically demanding positions that are similar to his previous position.

Defendant’s motion for summary judgment is denied.
WILLIE F. JOHNSON, JR. v. NATIONAL RAILROAD PASSENGER CORPORATION
D.C. Super. Ct. No. 2013 CA 001107 B. Decided on August 26, 2015. (Hon. John M. Mott. J.). Mark Glen Sokoloff, Esq. of Hach & Rose and Lawrence M. Mann, Esq. for Plaintiff, Dawn Singleton, Esq. of Bonner Kiernan Trebach & Crociatta for Defendant. Cite as: Johnson v. National Railroad Passenger Corp., 143 Daily Wash. L. Rptr. 1937 (D.C. Super. Ct. Aug. 26, 2015). ORDER MOTT, Judge: This matter is before the court on defendant National Railroad Passenger Corporation’s (“Amtrak’s”) Motion for Summary Judgment, plaintiff Willie F. Johnson’s opposition, and Amtrak’s reply thereto.

Johnson brings a negligence claim under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (“FELA”) 1 for Amtrak’s failure to properly lubricate a hand thrown switch and its failure to provide a safe walkway. Amtrak moves for summary judgment, arguing that (1) Johnson failed to establish a standard of care for the lubrication of switches in a rail yard and for sloped ballast in an area near a hand thrown switch as it relates to walkways; (2) Johnson failed to establish a causal link between Amtrak’s conduct and Johnson’s injury; and (3) Johnson’s claim of lost wages requires speculation and is not reasonably certain. Johnson responds that the proffered expert testimony sufficiently establishes both a standard of care and a causal link, and the determination of lost wages remains a question for the jury. For the reasons stated below, the court denies Amtrak’s Motion for Summary Judgment.

Background
Johnson worked for Amtrak as a Class 4 Engineer until November 27, 2010. Johnson’s job duties included the throwing of switches for the adjustment of tracks to facilitate trains entering and exiting the Amtrak Ivy City Maintenance Facility Annex. Johnson alleges that on February 19, 2010, he attempted to throw switch #944, and the handle jammed. This allegedly resulted in acute lumbar and left leg pain. Johnson claims that when he felt the pain, he took a few steps backward, slipped and fell from the ballast (gravel/broken stone) down an embankment and into a ravine (the area at the bottom of an embankment), suffering injury to his hip and lower back.

On March 8, 2010, Johnson sought treatment from William Tanner, M.D., a primary care physician at Patient First for injuries sustained following the accident. Dr. Tanner referred Johnson to an orthopedist, Michael J. Magee, M.D., for his hip and lower back pain. During Johnson’s March 10, 2010 visit, Dr. Magee made the following notation: “[Johnson] fell on the snow a couple of weeks before this.”1938 Wednesday, September 9, 2015 Daily Washington Law Reporter DWLR.COM Dr. Seyla opined that Johnson reached maximum medical improvement in June 2012, and could return to Amtrak.

Johnson currently works as a bus driver. Amtrak contends that Johnson has no intention of returning to Amtrak, although physically capable to do so. Johnson rebuts this claim by providing the expert testimony of Dr. Charles Kincaid, who opined that Johnson remains non-competitive in performing his past relevant work as a Class 4 Engineer. Amtrak now moves for summary judgment, claiming that Johnson failed to establish a standard of care for a jury to determine liability, Johnson failed to establish a causal link between Johnson’s injuries
and Amtrak’s conduct, and Johnson failed to provide sufficient proof of lost wages.

To read more click on the link below.

09_09_2015

FRA Emergency Regulation Amtrak

http://www.fra.dot.gov/eLib/Details/L16389

The FRA has implemented Positive  Train Control through an Emergency Order this month requiring Amtrak to install the federally required computer braking system in the area of the Philadelphia derailment.

Please follow our blog for further post-accident  developments.

Hundreds injured, 7 dead after Amtrak train derails in Philadelphia

NBC 10 in Philadelphia has reported that the death toll has risen to six after the Amtrak derailment last night.  The Amtrak train, heading to NYC from Washington D.C., derailed shortly after 9pm EST.  Each of the seven cars left the tracks completely during the devastating accident.

The accident is reported to have claimed the lives of six individuals and injured over 140 people.  The Temple University Hospital took in 54 patients, 25 of which remain hospitalized.  Temple’s chief medical officer Dr. Herbert Cushing reports that an additional 8 patients remain in critical condition.

Mark Sokoloff of Hach & Rose, LLP, who has over 25 years experience dealing with railroad related deaths and injuries, commented on the accident:

“This is a tragic accident and my heart goes out to the victims and their families.  Along with many others, I have spent my career as an advocate for railroad safety and have represented hundreds of railroad employees and passengers.  As is all too often the case, accidents like this could have been prevented if safety precautions were followed.  Please read the following overview of the how PTC – Positive Train Control may have prevented this accident”

Positive Train Control, enacted by Congress in 2008 as part of The Rail Safety Improvement Act, was mandated to be implemented by Major Passenger and Freight Carriers like CSX, Amtrak, North Burlington Central, and Consolidated Rail, to name a few, by December 31, 2015. A Positive Train Control computer system on Amtrak may have prevented the North East Regional Train 188 tragedy. Congress must act now to re- enforce, as well as implement, The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008  (RSIA08., P.L.110-432) for Passenger Commuter Trains like  the L.I.R.R, Metro-North, N.J Transit and Amtrak.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), an average of 200 derailments and 205 train collisions, resulting in 422 injuries and 12 fatalities, occurred annually from 1998 to 2009, excluding the accidents at railway crossings, like the Valhalla N.Y accident. The majority of train related fatalities are due to interactions with vehicular traffic at road grade crossings and in 2009 alone there were 247 fatalities.

PTC is designed to prevent “train to train collisions, over speed derailments, incursions into established zones by vehicles, and movement through a switch left in the wrong position.” Railroads across the country are mandated to design a PTC system “best suited” for the Carrier’s need to prevent Railway derailment as a result of a fouled  track or excessive speed.

The Amtrak Train 188 occurred close to Frankford Avenue and Wheatsheaf lane approaching a known dangerous curve in the tracks.

Amtrak trains travel within The North East Corridor at speeds exceeding 100 miles an hour. If this derailment was caused by excessive speed, a positive train control system would have reduced the train speed in this urban and residential area automatically, and would have likely prevented this tragedy.

150512224947-02-amtraktrain-derailment-0512-exlarge-169
Former U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy shared this photo that showed a firefighter inside the train.

The question that is posed by the North East Regional Train 188 Disaster is how close is Amtrak in their PTC design to prevent future speed related derailment before the 12/31/2015 deadline?

The firm of Hach & Rose, LLP, urges all Amtrak employees and their families to take advantage of the Amtrak Employee Assistance program. The firm is offering free FELA and benefit consultations through our website www.unionlawfirm.com or by calling (212) 779-0057.

If you or a family member was involved in this tragic accident, whether as a passenger or a worker, please contact Hach & Rose, LLP, to learn more about your rights and the legal action that may be available to you. To speak with one of our attorneys today, please call 866-LAWS-USA.

Enforcement of Rail Safety Improvement Act Necessary in Wake of Train Tragedy

Positive Train Control, enacted by Congress in 2008 as part of The Rail Safety Improvement Act, was mandated to be implemented by Major Passenger and Freight Carriers like CSX, Amtrak, North Burlington Central, and Consolidated Rail, to name a few, by December 31, 2015. A Positive Train Control computer system on Amtrak may have prevented the North East Regional Train 188 tragedy. Congress must act now to re- enforce, as well as, implement The Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008  (RSIA08., P.L.110-432) for Passenger Commuter Trains like  the L.I.R.R, Metro-North, N.J Transit and Amtrak.

According to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), an average of 200 derailments and 205 train collisions, resulting in 422 injuries and 12 fatalities, occurred annually from 1998 to 2009, excluding the accidents at railway crossings, like the Valhalla N.Y accident. The majority of train related fatalities are due to interactions with vehicular traffic at road grade crossings and in 2009 alone there were 247 fatalities.

PTC is designed to prevent “train to train collisions, over speed derailments, incursions into established zones by vehicles, and movement through a switch left in the wrong position” Railroads across the country are mandated to design a PTC system “best suited” for the Carrier’s need to prevent Railway derailment as a result of a fouled  track, or excessive speed.

The Amtrak Train 188 derailment occurred close to Frankford Avenue and Wheatsheaf lane approaching a known dangerous curve in the tracks.

Amtrak trains travel within The North East Corridor at speeds exceeding 100 miles an hour. If this derailment was caused by excessive speed, a positive train control system would have reduced the train speed in this urban and residential area automatically, and would have likely prevented this tragedy.

The question that is posed by the North East Regional Train 188 Disaster is how close is Amtrak in their PTC design to prevent future speed related derailments before the 12/31/2015 deadline?

The firm of Hach & Rose urges all Amtrak employees and their families to take advantage of the Amtrak Employee Assistance program. The firm is offering free FELA and benefit consultations thru our website http://www.unionlawfirm.com or by calling 212 779-0057.

Special Employee Advisory

SEA – Northeast Regional Train 188 Derailment – May 2015

Northeast Regional Train 188 Incident

AMTRAK is a registered service mark of the National Railroad Passenger Corporation.

Dear Co-workers

On Tuesday, May 12 at approximately 9:45 p.m., Amtrak Northeast Regional Train 188, operating from Washington to New York, derailed in northeastern Philadelphia. There were approximately 238 passengers and 5 crew members on board.

We are deeply saddened by the confirmed fatalities resulting from the derailment. Local emergency responders and senior Amtrak leadership are on the scene and an investigation is ongoing.

During this difficult time, the Employee Assistance Program is available to support all employees and their families. EAP counselors are very familiar with the unique challenges employees may face on the railroad, and conversations with the counselors are strictly confidential.

If you, a family member or fellow employee might benefit from consulting with EAP, please call (844) 268-7251. More information on EAP can be found on the Amtrak Intranet, under “Employees” → “Employee Assistance Program.”

We will update you as the investigation progresses and further information becomes available.

Our thoughts and prayers are with our passengers, crew members and their loved ones.

Sincerely,

DJ Stadtler

Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer

What is Repetitive Stress Syndrome?

Repetitive Stress Syndrome is something that a lot of FELA lawyers and regular lawyers overlook. It’s an occupational injury  that occurs to many, many workers on the railroad during the course of their career. Take an Amtrak worker who takes a hard-throwing switch over and over again in snow and cold weather and rain – 14 years and slowly complains about his back, complains about the switch, year after year, year after year. Then finally, one day, he pulls the switch, he feels the pain, he’s in the ambulance and months later he’s operated on. Not only does he have a day of injury accident, but he has a repetitive stress syndrome, occupational injury status under the Federal Employers Liability Act. Repetitive Stress Syndrome is recognized under FELA.

It could be something as simple as a ticket clerk hitting something over and over and over again for 20 years and then one day he or she hits it and injures her wrist – that’s a repetitive stress injury. Or a worker jumping off a train, every single day at the same spot, year after year, year after year, and then after 20 years he realizes his knees are gone from jumping down from a car – maybe 20 feet, maybe 15 feet. That’s a FELA claim under repetitive stress syndrome – that’s recognized all the way up to the US Supreme Court and it’s something that’s overlooked quite frequently by FELA lawyers but not by this firm.

If you are suffering from repetitive stress syndrome from repeated work on a railway, call a New York FELA attorney for legal representation with Hach & Rose, LLP, at 212-779-0057.

What is the Federal Rail Safety Act?

The US Railway Safety Act was enacted by Congress under Obama, and it gives railroad workers, for the first time, the right to sue the railroad if they’re being harassed due to an on-the-job injury. So if you get hurt on the job and you file an accident report, and the railroad starts playing with your time or your benefits or what days you’re working, or suspends you for any reason, you can contact a lawyer and that lawyer can sue in state or federal court under the US Railway Safety Act. And you can get punitive damages, up to $250,000, against the railroad and the attorney gets his fee from the jury for how many hours that he worked.

And if you’re injured on the job and you have a claim, that same attorney could put your FELA case, your injury case, with the US Railway Safety Act in one complaint and it’s a very strong statute protecting the worker. From here on in, you can’t be fired for filing a FELA claim.

For legal representation with your railroad injury case, talk to a New York FELA lawyer of Hach & Rose, LLP, at 212-779-0057.