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Norfolk Jury Returns $5 Million Verdict in Favor of Client Who Passed Away from Asbestos-Related Lung Disease
Our client, a carman, worked at Norfolk Southern’s Lambert’s Point car repair shop for more than a decade. He serviced and changed out asbestos-containing brake shoes at the shop year in and year out breathing in toxic asbestos fibers. After nearly ten years, Norfolk Southern hired abatement contractors to remove asbestos from the car shop. Our client subsequently became very ill and was diagnosed with a deadly lung disease. He died in 2017 due to complications from the disease. After his death, our client’s daughter obtained an autopsy that revealed asbestos was in fact in his lung tissue. The daughter contacted Randy Appleton, one of the firm partners, who accepted the case after reviewing the autopsy. The railroad denied all liability and pointed to our client’s smoking history as the basis for his lung disease. After a six-day trial, a jury in Norfolk ruled in favor of our client and awarded $5 million in damages (with 80 percent contributory negligence).
Connecticut Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro is leading an effort on Capitol Hill to reintroduce the Rail Safety Enforcement Act, which would mandate that railroads establish and implement a Fatigue Management Plan. It also would provide railroad workers with a defined start time, or at least 10 hours notice before reporting to the job.
DeLauro made the announcement at the West Haven CT train station on Wednesday. This was the location where a Metro-North Railroad train struck a track supervisor and killed him in May 2013.
At the announcement, a former railroad conductor commented that the biggest safety issue in the railroad industry is ‘fatigue, fatigue and fatigue.’ Francis Ariola is now the legislative director of the Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation union’s Transportation Division. He noted that union members are plagued with constant fatigue because they have extremely unpredictable work schedules.
Ariola noted that many workers are on call 24/7 and get as little as 90 minutes notice when they have to report for work.
The fate of the Rail Safety Enforcement Act is uncertain at this time, given that it is a presidential election year.
Our Virginia railroad injury attorneys know that railroads often disregard the need for adequate rest and sound sleep for train engineers. Serious injuries and deaths often result. For example, a National Transportation Safety Board report recently found that crew member fatigue played a major role in the collision of two trains.
Our railroad accident attorneys truly hope that the Rail Safety Enforcement Act is passed into law soon so that train engineers will be able to get the much needed rest they need to prevent many train accidents. Some train accidents lead to major accidents that leave crash victims devastated and injured for life, such as this $60 million personal injury verdict we worked in in 2000. Any law that can reduce the chances of such a terrible accident is worth it.
After a five day trial in St. Francois County, Missouri, the jury awarded $4.4 million to an injured BNSF Railway worker.
According to the lawsuit documents, Rob Hays from Raymore MO was working for BNSF operating a weld truck with a rail replacement crew along the Mississippi River north of Ste. Genevieve.
He was driving the truck with a remote control device while standing on a platform on the truck’s side. Rocks from a bluff near the tracks had fallen and were piled up next to the tracks, which is a violation of the clearance standards of the railroad. They struck the bottom of his platform and he was knocked off and dragged on the tracks.
He suffered a broken pelvis and hip and had to have part of the small intestine removed. The man no longer can do the heavy work of his old job but he can currently do office work.
The railroad stated that the worker was at fault, but the jury found BNSF 100% at fault. They also found that the railroad had broken a rule by the Federal Railroad Administration that mandates handrails on the platform.
Our railroad injury attorneys frequently represent workers who have been hurt on the job. It is hardly uncommon for the railroad to deny responsibility for the worker’s injuries. It usually takes the expertise of experienced and aggressive FELA attorneys to get the worker the compensation he deserves.
We had a railroad worker client who suffered serious back injuries when his foot fell into a depression in the ballast rock along railroad tracks he was walking beside. Our legal team was able to show that the track was improperly constructed, which led to the railroad ties creating small voids in the ballast rock profile. The railroad claimed it did not know about this problem but our lawyers were able to settle this tough case for $900,000.
A recent case in West Virginia is a good illustration of how many different companies can be sued for exposing a former worker to asbestos, which can lead to mesothelioma in some cases.
The lawsuit was filed by Lois June Wells from Middlebourne WV. her late husband Robert Wayne Wells was employed by Weirton Steel in Weirton and also for Miles/Mobay in nearby New Martinsville. One might think that only those two companies would be named in a wrongful death lawsuit but her mesothelioma lawsuit named 103 different companies that were allegedly responsible for his asbestos cancer, which led to his death in July 2015.
The companies named in the suit have been accused of negligence for many reasons. The suit states that the companies knew or should have known of dangers posed by their products and that they did not provide warnings or supply safety equipment. Also, the suit alleges that equipment and supplies were not labeled and warnings were not provided.
Mesothelioma is a terrible form of lung and organ lining cancer that develops many years after the person is exposed to asbestos. Our mesothelioma law firm often represents railroad workers who developed asbestos cancer related to their work on railroads.
It could prove difficult in the West Virginia case for the woman’s legal group to prove more than 100 companies are responsible for her husband’s death, but we will watch that case with interest to see how it unfolds.
Large corporations are notorious for trying to deny that their products or conduct led to asbestos cancer in any of their workers. Many of the railroad companies we have sued tried to downplay for years the risks associated with asbestos exposure. This is not a surprise because companies do not want to spend money to make their workplaces safer.
However, our FELA law firm has been able to show in our mesothelioma lawsuits that the company(ies) usually knew years ago that asbestos exposure can lead to serious health consequences. Once we are able to establish that fact, as well as the fact that the company had asbestos-containing products to which the decedent was exposed, we have won very large personal injury asbestos settlements for our clients.
The estate of a machinist mate in New York has been awarded $3.2 million in compensation for the mesothelioma he contracted while working for Jenkins Bros., a company that made the valves that led to his asbestos exposure.
In the case at the Supreme Court of New York, County of Schenectady NY, the estate of Scott Shays was awarded the multi million dollar award for his past pain and suffering and loss of the pleasures of life.
The jury found Jenkins Bros. 50% responsible, stating that the company acted with a reckless disregard for the safety of workers.
According to court documents, Shays was exposed to asbestos gaskets, packing and external insulation that were found in and around Jenkins valves, which he used in his time in the US Navy and Vermont National Guard. He served as a machinist mate fire apprentice from April to December 1976.
Shays died from pleural mesothelioma in April 2016 and was 57 years old.
Mesothelioma is a horrible and incurable form of cancer that affects the linings of the organs, including the lungs, heart and abdominal organs. It also affects the nerves and blood vessels in parts of the chest, so it is especially painful and difficult to treat. Most mesothelioma victims die within 18 months, and the disease is nearly always caused by exposure to asbestos.
In our work as railroad mesothelioma attorneys, we know that there really is no safe level of asbestos exposure. All types of asbestos can cause mesothelioma. Even if the worker has a short exposure period – as apparently was the case in the above NY lawsuit – it can be enough for the mesothelioma to be considered at least partially related to the person’s occupation.
In the railroad industry, we know that these companies try various tricks and tactics to delay and drag out legitimate claims that are filed under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). For instance, our mesothelioma legal firm once represented two railroad workers who contracted mesothelioma from their work as conductors and switchmen.
The railroad argued that it had no asbestos in products that the workers would have ‘normally’ been exposed to. However, we brought in experienced industrial hygiene experts who accessed internal railroad documents and invoices. They concluded that the workers were indeed exposed to deadly asbestos fibers in their work on the railroad.
They sadly died before the case was brought to conclusion, but at least our mesothelioma attorneys were able to secure a large settlement to ensure the finances of their grieving families.
A railroad conductor in Harrisburg PA has sued Delaware and Hudson Railway Company for what he claims are repetitive stress injuries that are allegedly due to his employer’s negligence and failure to provide a safe work environment.
The complaint alleges that the former conductor suffered repetitive trauma to his arms and legs by working in an environment that included large mainline railroad ballast rock that shifts underfoot constantly. Because of this, he claims that he will have to suffer with this medical condition for years, which is impairing his ability to work.
He is seeking a trial by jury and is seeking more than $150,000.
As experienced FELA attorneys in Virginia, we know that repetitive stress and sudden injuries are extremely common in railroad-related jobs. We had a railroad conductor client who was injured in 2003 while he was walking along his mile-long freight train checking the air brakes. His foot fell into a depression in the ballast rock. He twisted and suffered a major back injury. He had major back surgery in 2005 but he still had considerable pain that left him unable to work.
His doctors eventually did fusion surgery on his lower back, which left him completely disabled at 37 years of age. Our law firm carefully studied the accident scene and hired a hydro-geologist to review how water flowed through that area. We also hired a railroad track structure expert to review that section of track.
The railroading expert discovered that there were little pieces of wooden crosstie mixed into the ballast rock in the area where the fall happened. He reported that this was improper track construction; the ties can create gaps in the ballast rock. As the wood breaks down, it leaves small holes or voids in the rock. The bottom line: We achieved a $900,000 in this railroad personal injury case.
If you are injured on the job at a railroad, please review our guide A Railroad Worker’s Rights When Injured on the Job.
Our railroad injury lawyers have decades of jury trial courtroom experience and handle railroad injury cases east of the Mississippi river, so essentially anywhere in the eastern United States.
Union Pacific Railroad is being sued after one of its employees was allegedly thrown from a rail car in Cheyenne WY.
The plaintiff filed his lawsuit on April 8 in Laramie County District Court in Wyoming. The complaint stated that he was working as a conductor on Oct. 30, 2014 when he was thrown from the car and suffered a partial amputation of his right foot.
The complaint states that the railroad caused the accident because it did not provide safe tools and equipment for the worker to do his job, and also it failed to ‘provide an efficient hand brake,’ and did not ‘provide a safe and proper procedure to perform the assigned task.’
Therefore, the plaintiff is seeking compensation for his medical costs, pain and suffering, loss of income past, present and future, and permanent disability.
As experienced FELA attorneys in Virginia, we know many situations where railroad safety improvements have occurred after the railroad has been exposed to serious financial liability through jury verdicts. Our law firm’s Richard Shapiro has been active in the coordination of information regarding dangerous railroad hazards with attorneys who represent injured railroad workers around the country.
One of the main reasons we do this is to hope that well informed FELA attorneys around the country as well as well informed railroad workers will bring about a safer work environment for all railroad employees.
Over the years, it seems that FELA has had a strong effect in improving railroad safety; there has been a decline in recent years in employee deaths and injuries in the railroad industry, which coincides with aggressive filings of FELA lawsuits on behalf of injured workers. We think that FELA is a strong tool to keep railroad roads focused on constantly improving worker safety.
Anyone who has been injured on the job at a railroad should consult with an experienced FELA attorney immediately.
Almost 10 years after a CSX railroad conductor died in a remote part of Florida as he worked for the railroad, the Florida Supreme Court has agreed to take up a lawsuit about CSX Transportation’s duty to provide medical assistance.
The widow of the deceased train worker, Larry Sells, appealed to the FL Supreme Court after the First District Court of Appeal ruled for CSX in the medical negligence case. Sells died from a heart attack in August 2006 after he went to manually operate a track switch in a remote part of Clay County FL.
A co-worker found him within two minutes and called CSX for help, but the dispatcher could not clearly communicate where the stricken man was, and the EMTs did not arrive for 35 minutes.
The lawsuit alleges that CSX did not provide a safe workplace, which should have included a lack of automated external defibrillators.
The First District Court of Appeals sided with CSX last May, stating that while CSX did have to provide prompt medical treatment once it knew the man was ill, it did not have a duty to take measures in advance to prevent such an emergency situation.
However, the widow’s attorneys argued that CSX breached its duties under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) and that the appeal court ruling could have serious repercussions throughout the US.
The brief filed by the plaintiff’s attorney stated that the appeals court decision could be used by FELA employers in state and federal courts to support their failure to take preemptive measures to ensure their workers get quick medical care in an emergency.
Norfolk Southern Railway Company has filed a motion to dismiss a lawsuit against it, alleging that a former employee has falsified a workplace injury.
The former railroad worker filed his workplace injury lawsuit in September 2015, but Norfolk states that the federal court in which it was filed lacks subject matter jurisdiction.
The man claims that he was working for Norfolk in March 2012 when he tried to release a hand brake and hurt his back, which was diagnosed as a severe lumbar sprain.
When he asked for an injury document from the railroad because he was immobile, the company would not do so. He also claims that Norfolk obtained unauthorized medical records from his hospital while he was undergoing treatment. The company then accused him of falsifying a work injury through letters and also requested a hearing for not promptly reporting the injury.
The complaint also alleges that the worker was not paid for his 2010 time slips, and after he had recovered from an eye injury, he was not allowed to go back to work by the company’s doctor.
Our FELA attorneys in Virginia Beach have represented many former railroad workers who suffered injuries on the job. While we cannot comment on whether or not the man in the case above falsified his injury, we do know that railroads will try their utmost to deny rightful claims for injured workers.
We represented a railroad worker who was injured in April 2003 when he was walking along a railroad track checking air brakes on a train. His foot suddenly fell into a depression in the ballast rock. This caused a serious lower back injury. He was subsequently totally disabled from his work at 37 years old.
Our law firm in Virginia determined what had caused the sudden depression in the ballast rock by retaining a hydro-geologist who examined the water flow in that region. We were able to prove that the track was constructed improperly which led to small voids and open gaps in the ballast rock. We settled that case for $900,000.
CSX alleges that a former railroad worker failed to sign and return a settlement agreement, thus the railroad is seeking to strike the settlement and dismiss the complaint entirely.
On Dec. 23, Judge Mary Doherty in Philadelphia moved to dismiss a case brought by Mark Christopher from Union KY, against CSX Transportation based in Richmond VA. The judge’s dismissal is based upon the worker’s alleged ignoring of a court order from Aug. 27, 2015.
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas records stated that a settlement was reached in Christopher’s personal injury law suit in August 2011. However, the judge stated that the former CSX employee did not execute and return the final settlement release. This forced CSX to file a motion to enforce the settlement.
Another judge granted the settlement enforcement motion in August, and ordered Christopher to execute and return the final settlement release within 30 days.
In early October, plaintiff counsel promised that his client would sign and return the settlement release immediately. However, the release was never signed or submitted.
The original lawsuit alleges that in his work with CSX from 1978 until 2009, he was exposed to excessive, cumulative trauma to his knees. This was largely due to having to bend, crawl, kneel, squat, climb and walk on unleveled ballast. Less than three years before he filed the suit in 2009, the man found that he had suffered a right knee injury from repetitive trauma.
The suit alleged that CSX did not provide a safe work environment. The plaintiff sought damages of $50,000 in this workplace injury case.
Many of our personal injury law firm’s clients in Virginia come to us because they suffered injuries due to repetitive heavy lifting or repetitive work tasks that cause permanent injuries to their joints.
We have seen in many workplace injury cases at railroads where improper ergonomics lead to serious injuries over long periods of time. Proper ergonomics in the workplace involves preventing repetitive workplace injuries by changing how the work tasks are done. Changing how the task is done is called an administrative change, while changing the tool or equipment is called an engineering change.
Oftentimes a railroad worker will contact our personal injury law office in Virginia Beach and tell us that their doctor stated that their injury was caused by their work at the railroad. However, the railroad is NOT liable to pay them compensation unless the railroad can be proven to have been careless or negligent in not preventing repetitive stress injuries. This is where an experienced attorney who understands ergonomics and reasonable prevention of repetitive stress injuries is so important.
In some workplace injury cases, we have brought in an ergonomist who is able to show their his or her expertise that the railroad was indeed negligent, which led to a worker’s injury.
Note that claims against railroads fall under the Federal Employers Liability Act, which has a three year statute of limitations from when the claim arises.
The last thing we will say about this workplace injury case is that a good FELA attorney would make absolutely certain that the client signs and files all required paperwork to settle the case.