Category Archives: FELA

Study Links Diesel Down Mines to Lung Cancer in Workers

Veritas Legal Media – 757-582-1836 – veritaslegalmedia@hotmail.com

Whether you work on the railroad or down a mine, there are a lot of visible threats to your health. There are quite a few invisible ones too.

Heavy diesel fumes may be visible at times to the naked eye but the real danger is the tiny but unseen particles that get stuck in the lungs of workers. A new study by the National Cancer Institute links diesel fumes to lung cancer in mines.

The study that began in 1992 looked at 12,350 workers in mines in New Mexico, Wyoming, Ohio and Missouri.

“It was across the United States. We had one salt mine, we had three potash mines, we had three trona mines and one limestone mine,” Patricia Schlieff, a statistician for the project, told Essential Pubic Radio.

“The study findings provide further evidence that exposure to diesel exhaust increases risk of mortality from lung cancer and have important public health implications,” the paper concluded.

The study found 198 miners died of lung cancer in the eight mines studied. The miners were exposed to diesel exhaust.

There’s now a growing body of evidence that railroad workers exposed to diesel are also suffering from lung cancer. Research also centers on a disease called “diesel asthma.”

Diesel fumes are a complex chemical mixture containing hundreds of compounds, including nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, benzene, poly-systematic hydrocarbons and numerous other compounds.

For more than 50 years diesel has run locomotives on the railroads, resulting in railroad workers suffering heavy exposure to its effects. Levels of lung cancer spiked after diesel trains replaced steam trains in the 1950s.

In recent years the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) that permits an injured worker to bring lawsuits directly against his employers, has been used in cases of railroad workers who have developed lung cancer or asthma linked to diesel fumes.

In April 2008, an Ohio state court jury ordered the rail operator Conrail to pay $2.6 million to former locomotive engineer Frank Battaglia, for causing his diesel exhaust asthma lung disease.  Mr. Battaglia, had worked for more than two decades as an engineer, before he was diagnosed with diesel exhaust fume asthma.

Evidence of diesel asthma has significance beyond the mine and the railroad. The link between the increased use of diesel cars and a rise in asthma in the general population of Britain was highlighted in a campaign in the British newspaper The Independent.

In a 2002 report the Environmental Protection Agency pointed to a likely link between diesel fumes and lung cancer in the United States. The report concluded long-term exposure to diesel “is likely to pose a lung cancer hazard to humans as well as damage the lung in other ways depending on exposure.”

 The report led the Bush administration to propose reductions in emissions from diesel engines.

 Research suggests the young may be particularly vulnerable from asthma caused by particles in diesel. Researchers in California suggest pollutants in diesel cause as many as 3,500 premature deaths a year in the state.

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Filed under Diesel, FELA, Mining

A Federal Act that Protects Railroad Workers

Contact Veritas legal media – 757-582-1836, veritaslegalmedia@hotmail.com

For more than a century railroad workers have been protected by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), an act brought in after a terrible catalogue of deaths and injuries on America’s railroads.

The legislation followed a massive upsurge in railway building at the end of the 19th Century. While this boom fuelled America’s economy, it was bought at a high price in terms of the number of railroad workers being injured or killed. Railroad use had increased six fold from 1889 to 1920 alone, but safety practices failed to catch up.

In 1889 President Benjamin Harrison addressed the dangers in a speech to the U.S. Congress when he compared the plight of the railroad worker to those of a soldier at war:

It is a reproach to our civilization that any class of American workmen, should in the pursuit of a necessary and useful vocation, be subjected to a peril of life and limb as great as that of a soldier in time of war,” he said.

FELA is a U.S. federal law that was enacted in 1908 to protect and compensate railroad workers injured on the job, if a worker can prove the railroad was at least partly legally negligent in causing the injury.

The legislation was based upon the federal government’s power over interstate commerce, as granted  in the Constitution. Before it was enacted there was no remedy for injured railroad workers.

Although the FELA has been compared to worker’s compensation insurance provided in other industries, unlike workers’ compensation, FELA is a fault based system dependant on the negligence of a railroad employee, its agent or contractor, or linked to a faulty piece of equipment.

It’s worth taking the time to find an experienced Virginia (VA) FELA attorney because FELA awards are usually much higher than those of workers’ compensation claims. FELA uses the legal doctrine of “comparative negligence”. In other words a jury determines the percentage of negligence for which each party is liable, thereby establishing the percentage of the award to be allocated to the worker.

FELA covers a wide number of injuries. The highest profile cases involve serious injuries or fatalities to workers. In Ohio, for example in 2011,

But FELA is not just about bodily injuries. It also  covers injuries due to asbestos exposure or exposure to diesel fumes, as well as cumulative trauma injuries and repetitive strain injury.

Railroad workers may have additional rights and benefits as outlined by the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), a series of federal laws passed by Congress in 1908 to improve railroad safety and provide substantial compensation for injured railroad workers and their families. FELA allows recovery for injury or death caused by:

FELA claims can be brought for a variety of reasons including wrongful death, cases of mesothelioma, asbestosis, silicosis, lung cancer or Parkinson’s injury, and catastrophic injury.

Under FELA railroad employees who can no longer work because of their injuries or conditions contracted while on the railway are entitled to recover for damages for loss of wages, pain and suffering, emotional distress and anxiety or past and future medical expenses related to the injury stated in the claim. FELA also comes into play in wrongful death cases. In a recent case CSX conductor Dennis A. Hemme, 59, died when he was crushed to death in a mainline shove.

In a wrongful death case, damages can be sought by the legal spouse, children, parents or other dependant beneficiaries

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Filed under FELA, Railroad, Wrongful Death

Ex-Railroad Worker is Awarded $4.5 Million over Painful Slip

Veritas Legal Media – 757-582-1836 veritaslegalmedia@hotmail.com

BODY – Tripping on the railroad may not seem like obvious grounds for a lawsuit against your employer.

But when the employer is a railroad company that has allowed weeds to grow so high that the dangers are not readily apparent, it’s the grounds for a multi-million dollar verdict, a jury in Roanoke, Virginia decided.

See this video of a Norfolk Southern derailment.

The jury awarded $4.5 million to former Norfolk Southern Corp. conductor and brakeman Welsh Davis after he tripped on a cross tie along tracks, the Associated Press reported.

The result of the 2008 trip was a torn tendon that left the railway worker in constant pain and unable to work. His lawyer successfully argued the weeds had grown so high around the cross tie that Davis was unable to see the  trip danger and his workplace was an unsafe one.

Railroad workers are not covered by workers’ compensation. That’s where the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) comes in, although an employer’s negligence needs to be proved for a claim to be successful.

In other cases involving Norfolk Southern

* A conductor who suffered a traumatic brain injury at a Chicago rail yard in April 2005, when a faulty step collapsed was awarded $17 million against Norfolk Southern by a jury.

* Norfolk Southern worker David Rogers whose knee was badly injured when he slipped and fell as he tried to mount runaway railcars in a bid to prevent a crash in a Tennessee rail yard in 2002, was awarded $2.3 million.

*A brakeman whose foot was severed when he fell under a train in a Norfolk Southern yard in Delaware in 2005 after cars were incorrectly coupled was awarded $5.5 million

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Filed under FELA, Railroad, Serious personal injury, Slip and fall