Jury Awards $7.5 Million to Railroad Worker Who Developed Leukemia from Creosote Exposure

Railroad workers are exposed to many harmful chemicals in their work on the tracks. A jury recently awarded $7.5 million to a man from Edwardsville in Illinois who developed leukemia after handling creosote soaked railroad ties for Chicago & North Western Railway.

James Brown worked on the railroad for more than three decades. He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and claimed the diagnosis was caused by the failure of his employer to provide protective equipment.

Brown’s attorney, David Damick filed a suit six years ago against Union Pacific Railroad, for whom Brown worked for 13 years. He alleged most of the exposure and alleged negligence occurred during the 18 years that Brown worked for Union Pacific’s predecessor, Chicago & North Western Railway, stated a report in the Intelligencer.

Damick said his client was repeatedly exposure to harmful creosote over a period of 18 years.

He argued the railroad knew about the dangers of creosote decades ago but failed to act. In 1986, the railroad received a notice from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the dangers of creosote and benzene exposure.

CNW knew about the dangers of creosote and benzene exposure as early as 1986 when they received a notice from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It instructed the railroad to comply with certain safety measures.

Creosote exposure proved harmful to railroad worker
Railroad worker was exposed to creosote

The jury heard the railroad failed to comply with the notice. It did not provide employees with gloves, respirators, goggles, or other protective equipment.

Brown started his work as laborer for CNW in 1976. He frequently loaded and unloaded creosote-soaked railroad ties.

The Dangers of Creosote

Brown often returned home after work covered from head to toe in wet creosote, he testified.

He was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS in 2008. The disease subsequently developed into acute myeloid leukemia, or AML.

During the trial, several medical experts testified that even the smallest exposure to creosote, benzene and carbolineum can cause AML.

The defense claimed that the railroad worker’s exposure to those toxins was in insufficient amounts to cause AML.

The railroads fight cases like this hard. Mr. Brown’s was no exception. Attorneys for Union Pacific questioned the science linking creosote exposure to cancer. They tried to exonerate the giant railroad company on the grounds Brown was employed by CNW when the exposure occurred.

However, the jury in Madison County came close to awarding Brown the $8 million he was requesting when it agreed to a $7.5 million verdict.

Many railroad workers are exposed to harmful chemicals and substances in their line of work. If you are harmed on the railroad or injured, please call me at (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper

 

 

Poor Seating is Identified as a Cause of Railroad Worker Injuries

As a railroad worker injury lawyer, I’ve helped engineers, conductors and other crew members who suffered very serious injuries. We read a lot about derailments, explosions or chemical spills. However, poor seating causes many injuries on the railroad.

The problem is not new. Back in 1998, a Federal Railroad Administration study made a clear link between poor seating and injuries. The investigators noted the issue is well documented.

The study stated:

“Engineers complain of lower back, neck and shoulder pains related to sitting posture.”

A disconnect between the seating and the requirements of engineers to operate equipment exacerbates the problem.

Poor seating on trains leads to injuries

Poor seating may not sound as serious as derailments, moving parts or other hazards that can cause very serious injuries and deaths on the railroad.

But workers are constantly on their seats. The vibrations can impact their backs and cause very serious injuries over a period of time.

Poor Seating Issues on Trains Go Back Decades

We should not be surprised about why seating is so bad on trains. In 2003, a report by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers said executives focused on the “bottom line” make decisions on the railroads. Crews have little say.

There appeared to be little incentive for the railroads to tackle the level of vibration workers face on poor seating.

Studies have repeatedly pointed to the pain suffered by railroad employees who are forced to sit on these inadequate seats.

The Association of American Railroads’, Locomotive Cab Seat Evaluation in 1980 looked at the seating on trains on every major railroad in the country.

It found 40 percent of employees reported back pain from riding on the trains and almost 25 percent reported neck pain.

Ongoing pain is a warning of future injury. The unwillingness of the railroads to address such a fundamental problem over a span of at least four decades is alarming.

When poor seating leads to back injuries, workers may lose their jobs on the railroads. They may also have ground to sue their employers under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). If you were injured on the railroads, please call us at (866) 455-6657.

 

Oklahoma Worker Claims He was Terminated After a Railroad Injury

If you suffer an injury on the railroad, you should not expect your employer to be supportive. Railroads can be ruthless when workers get injured. In a recent case, an Oklahoma man alleged he was terminated after a railroad injury.

A report in SETexasRecord stated Chad W. Burleson filed a complaint on Oct. 5 in the Houston Division of the Southern District of Texas.

Burleson alleges that Polivka International Co. Inc. and Kansas City Southern Railway Co. were in violation of the Federal Railroad Safety Act.

The complaint relates to a work-related injury Burleson sustained on Feb. 18, 2014. He was working for Polivka as a contractor at a Kansas City Southern Railway Co. job site. His injury required medical attention and leave of absence, the lawsuit states. Just over a week later on Feb. 26, 2014, he was terminated from his employment.

Your rights if you are terminated after a railroad injury.
Cooper Hurley’s book about injuries on the railroad

The former railroad worker is suing Polivka International Co. Inc. and Kansas City Southern Railway Co. over the termination.

He is represented by attorneys Lawrence P. Wilson and W. Mark Lanier.

Terminated After a Railroad Injury – You Are Not Alone

As an experienced railroad accident lawyer, I hear of many cases in which workers who report injuries are victimized and even terminated after a railroad injury.

In 2013, Norfolk Southern Railway was ordered to pay $1.1 million for terminating three railroad employees who reported injuries.

Investigations by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found the three men would not have lost their jobs had they not reported injuries.

The terminations go to the heart of the safety culture on the railroads. In 2014, a BNSF railroad worker in Washington State claimed he was fired because he took the time to test his train’s brakes.

This incident was even more alarming because the train in question was carrying propane, butane and carbon monoxide, hazardous materials that could cause serious injuries or deaths to workers and residents if a train derailed.

BNSF was accused by a number of workers and former workers of putting profits and speed above safety on the railroad.

If you have been injured on the railroad, you should be very careful about what you do or say to your employer. Call an experienced FELA accident attorney as soon as possible after your injury at (866) 455-6657.

 

Worker Killed in Rail Yard in Montana Previously Sued Railroad Over Conditions

A sad recent case of a worker who was killed in a rail yard in Montana, highlights some of the dangers inherent on the railroad.

Richard Schmitz of Missoula was killed in the spring in Montana Rail Link’s yard in his hometown.

Remote control is a hazard in rail yards
The rail yard is a hazardous place

Media reports stated Missoula county officials concluded his death in a train collision was accidental.

The coroner said the cause of death was blunt-force trauma, and the circumstances of the collision remain under investigation. Schmitz died when a train collided with a smaller vehicle at the yard.

Investigations are underway from the Federal Railroad Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board.

A report by NBC Montana revealed the railroad worker had filed a lawsuit in 2011 claiming unsafe practices in his work and repetitive work using unsafe tools led to chronic pain and injuries that would impact his future.

An initial complaint from Schmitz alleged that MRL “(knew) or should have known that the job tasks, tools and equipment assigned to Plaintiff (Schmitz) would, over time, result in musculoskeletal injuries to the body as a whole, including his left foot.”

The lawsuit was withdrawn in 2014, reported NBC and most of the suits were settled out of court. MRL representatives said Schmitz voluntarily dropped his litigation, NBC reported.

The existence of a previous lawsuit before the death of this worker highlights some of the dangers that railroad workers face in rail yards.

Rail Yard Hazards

I have noted the extreme dangers associated with some rail yards here on this blog.

Remote control technology has been used in rail yards for many years, but there is some evidence that it merely exacerbates dangers.

This technology means only one person is routinely in control of a train. It’s now the norm in most of America’s rail yards but doubts linger about whether it’s made yards any safer.

The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers, a railroaders union, has opposed the use of remote control in yards on the grounds that the technology was unsafe and untested.

In the past, I have handled several Federal Employers’ Liability Act cases involving CSX railroad workers who were injured during remote control operations. When railroad workers are hurt, they are often injured in yards. The arrival of remote control seems to be more about railroads cutting their costs rather than seeking to improve the safety of yard workers.

If you have been injured in a rail yard or have lost a loved one please call me at  (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper

Remote Control Operators May Increase Dangers in Rail Yards

Remote control technology has been used in rail yards for many years but I remain to be convinced that it provides optimum safety for workers.

This technology means only one person is often in control of a train. It’s now the norm in most rail yards but there’s some skepticism about whether it’s made yards any safer.

Remote control is a hazard in rail yards
Rail yards are hazardous places

Take the death of Melinda Carter, a 37-year-old conductor who was killed at CSX’s larger Riverdale yard in Chicago in 2010. She was killed when she was run over by a locomotive she was conducting.

Then there’s 33-year-old Jared Boehlke, who lost his life in 2009 when he stepped between two train cars in the CSX Selkirk yard in New York.

I noted that CSX recently updated its rules about remote operation. The amendment that was enacted in 2015 reads:

CSX Updates Remote Control Guidance

THE EMPLOYEE DIRECTING THE MOVEMENT AND/OR THE PRIMARY REMOTE CONTROL OPERATOR OF REMOTE CONTROL MOVEMENTS MUST:

  1. REMAIN AT THE DESIGNATED PLACE OF SAFETY UNTIL THE MOVEMENT IS STOPPED EXCEPT IN CASES OF EMERGENCY, AND
  2. MAINTAIN VISUAL CONTACT WITH A PORTION OF THE EQUIPMENT WHILE MOVEMENT IS OCCURRING.

The amended wording certainly appears to be a response to a concern about the hazards of using the remote system, even though it’s been used for more than a decade.

Back in 2001, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) gave the go ahead for major U.S. railroads to employ remote control operators (RCOs). The operators are belt pack devices that move unmanned engines.

Rail unions were skeptical from the start and remain alarmed. The Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers opposed the use of RCOs on the grounds that the technology was unsafe and untested.

In the past, I have handled several FELA cases involving CSX railroad workers who were hurt during remote control operations. When railroad workers are injured, they are often hurt in rail yards. The arrival of RCOs seems to be more about railroads cutting costs rather than seeking to improve safety at yards.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a rail yard, it’s important to know your FELA rights before your employer tries to take advantage of you. Call me for a free and confidential consultation today at (866) 455-6657.

Lawsuit is Filed Over Death of Amtrak Worker in Chester Crash

There has been plenty of speculation about an apparent breakdown in communication that led to the death of two railroad workers in an Amtrak derailment near Chester in Pennsylvania on April 3. Now a wrongful death lawsuit has been filed against Amtrak in Delaware by the family of one of the workers who lost his life.

Wrongful death lawsuit is filed over Amtrak crash

The claim which has been brought by the family of Joe Neal Carter Kr., was reported in Delawareonline..

The suit was filed by Philadelphia attorneys Tom Kline and Robert J. Mongeluzzi, who represent the family of Joe Neal Carter Jr.

Carter was a veteran of the railroad and a longtime Amtrak employee. He was killed just north of the Delaware line while operating a backhoe.

The claim said Carter believed the track was protected at the time he was hit by the train. It cites poor communication and a failure to adhere to appropriate practices and procedures.

The worker was operating the backhoe when he was struck by the southbound Amtrak train at 106 mph. He lost his life along with fellow worker Peter Adamovich.

The lawsuit questions Amtrak’s safety precautions. It says the railroad failed to adhere to its own safety rules and did not comply with safe industry standards.

The family is suing Amtrak under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) in a claim that includes medical and funeral expenses as well money to support Carter’s two children.

The Federal Railroad Administration conducted a wide-ranging investigation in the light of the crash that has examined relevant safety precautions for workers. Recently, I outlined how the FRA has announced a raft of safety measures to protect workers from trains.

The investigation into Chester accident has looked at whether the work crew received the correct safety briefing before beginning its shift, a requirement of federal safety rules. Some insiders have alluded to a failure to implement basic safety procedures before the wreck.

Reports suggested a shunt strap was not in use at the time of the accident, in violation of Amtrak’s rules. A full report is not expected until the end of this year.

If you have lost a loved one in a railroad accident or if you have been injured while working on the railroads, I would like to hear from you. Call us for a free consultation at (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper

 

 

FRA Outlines New Safety Measures After Workers Are Killed in Amtrak Crash

New safety measures were ordered last month by FRA federal railroad officials as well as expanded drug testing for work crews, in the wake of a series of accidents including one that killed two track workers nearly eight weeks ago.

The measures were imposed by the Federal Railroad Administration They included additional protective measures for work crews who are operating on or near active railroad tracks. There will be safeguards on the use of equipment on or near the tracks that can serve as a second line of defense to prevent collisions between workers and trains.

FRA brings in new rules after Amtrak crash

FRA Increases Alcohol and Drug Testing

The FRA has widened a drug- and alcohol-testing program that was already in place for engineers and dispatchers—to include track maintenance workers. Two workers lost their lives on April 3 in Chester, Pennsylvania when a train killed a worker and a supervisor when it hit a backhoe that was on the tracks.

The new rules incorporate some updates that were outlined by Congress in the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Amtrak has been involved in a spate of high-profile accidents in recent years that have led to a loss of life, raising questions about railroad safety.

The investigation in the wake of the Chester accident has looked at whether the work crew received a proper safety briefing before beginning its shift, a requirement of federal safety rules. It has raised questions about the level of communication between the work supervisor and a rail dispatcher shortly before the train was cleared to proceed through the work zone. Recently, I noted how safety systems may have been disabled before the fatal Amtrak crash in Chester.

Some people close to the investigation have alluded to a failure to implement basic safety procedures, leading to a loss of life.

They said a shunt strap was not in use at the time of the accident. Amtrak’s rules require the use of shunt straps in numerous situations, a railroad spokeswoman told the media after the Chester accident. The railroad has yet to comment on whether the work crew in that incident had used a shunt strap.

Something clearly went badly wrong in Pennsylvania. As an experienced FELA accident injury lawyer, I am very concerned about these apparent safety lapses that appear to go to the heart of Amtrak’s systems. I welcome the improvements but believe more information needs to be disclosed about exactly what went wrong. If you have lost a loved one or if you have been injured while working on the railroad, you may have grounds to sue a railroad operator. Please contact us on the chat box on this site or call the number above.

John Cooper

 

Amtrak Crash in Kansas Injures 32 People

john-web-imageBy John Cooper, Railroad Injury Lawyer

The sight of Amtrak cars lying on their side after a derailment has become an increasingly common one in recent years. I was alarmed to read about how it happened again in Kansas in a crash that injured 32 people.

This crash on Monday morning raises many questions. Latest news reports suggest officials believe an unreported vehicle crash may have damaged the tracks before an Amtrak train derailed in Kansas.

We have seen a number of serious passenger train accidents over the last two years. In May 2015, an Amtrak train derailed in Philadelphia, killing eight and injuring many more. The train was speeding into a curve.

The Amtrak crash in Kansas

In Kansas, an engineer noticed a significant bend in a rail ahead and put on the emergency brakes shortly before the passenger train derailed, the Associated Press reported. The Amtrak train appeared to have been traveling at about 75 miles when the engineer pulled the emergency break.

Information that a vehicle accident may have occurred before the wreck that damage the tracks came from the Gray County sheriff’s department. The authorities looked at tire tracks leading to the train tracks and preserved the scene with crime scene tape.

Amtrak said 32 people who were involved in the derailment were taken to local hospitals for treatment. All but three had been released by late morning.

FELA Claims After Passenger Train Crashes

Earlier this month nine people were injured when a train with 214 passengers on board derailed in California. Officials said a mudslide was the likely cause of a tree being on the line that caused the derailment on the Altamont Corridor Express train, Union Pacific said.

As a passenger on a train, you have a right to a safe ride on any train. This right includes holding the railroad company accountable if you get hurt en route. Numerous lawsuits were filed after the Amtrak crash in Philadelphia by both passengers and their families and crew members.

The first lawsuit was filed by an employee of the railroad service, according to NBC Philadelphia. Bruce Phillips was working as an Amtrak dispatcher and was traveling in the last of the train’s seven cars when it left the tracks. The dispatcher filed a lawsuit as an employee under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), which allows railroaders injured on the job to seek compensation.

If you or a loved one has been hurt in a train crash, call us at (866) 455-6657 for a free consultation.

 

CSX Faces Hearing over Lack Of Defibrillators on Trains

john-Cooper-web-imageBy John Cooper, Railroad Injury Lawyer

A railroad has a duty to provide a safe environment including good lighting in yards and working areas free of hidden hazards to workers. However, a long-running lawsuit against CSX in Florida has raised the question whether this extends to automated external defibrillators on trains to provide assistance to workers who may have heart attacks on the job.

Nearly a decade after a railroad conductor died in a remote part of Florida the issue is still to be decided. At the end of last month, the Florida Supreme Court agreed to take up a lawsuit about the railroad company’s duty to provide medical assistance.

A CSX train in Portsmouth, VA
A CSX train in Portsmouth, VA

The Daily Record reported on how Crystal Sells, the widow of conductor Larry Sells, made an appeal to the Supreme Court after the District Court of Appeal last year ruled in favor of CSX in the negligence case.

The case came in the wake of the death of conductor Larry Sells who lost his life in August 2006 after suffering a heart attack as he went to manually operate a switch to change tracks in remote Clay County.

Sells was discovered by a co-worker within two minutes. He called a CSX dispatcher for help. Tragically, the dispatcher was confused about the conductor’s exact location and emergency medical technicians did not arrive on the scene for 35 minutes, by which time it was too late for Mr. Sells.

CSX Accused of Failing to Provide a Safe Workplace

Crystal Sells later filed the lawsuit contending CSX failed to provide a safe work place. The issues cited included a lack of automated external defibrillators on trains.

In May 2015, a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with CSX but the conductor’s widow successfully appealed.

Her attorneys argued CSX breached its duties under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) and that the appeals-court ruling could have broad implications for safety on the railroads.

“This decision, the first of its kind nationwide, will be used by FELA employers as persuasive authority in state and federal courts to support their failure to take precautionary measures to ensure their workers receive prompt medical care, even when they knowingly send them to remote areas that are too far from EMTs,’’ said the brief, filed in October.

The Supreme Court case is important because it could have a bearing on how safe large railroad operators like CSX and Norfolk Southern, should make their trains. Given that trains operate in many remote parts of the country, there is a powerful argument that providing a safe working environment goes beyond the obvious hazards to include equipment that may help employees who suffer health conditions on the job.

If you or a loved one has been injured on the railroad you may have grounds for a claim under FELA. Call us today at (866) 455-6657.

Norfolk Southern Worker Whose Heel Was Ripped off in Yard Accident Receives $22.4 Million

john-web-imageBy John Cooper, Railroad Injury Lawyer

When things go wrong on the railroad workers can often suffer very serious injuries that can affect or destroy their quality of life.

At the end of last year a jury in Illinois handed down a $22.47 million verdict in the case of a Norfolk Southern employee whose heel was torn off when two railroad cars collided on what was meant to be parallel tracks. The jury found changes to the yard that made it more unsafe had contributed to the accident.

norfolk-southern

All cases are different and we cannot guarantee the results of a case. It was one of the largest verdicts on the railroad last year in a FELA case. John M. Power and George T. Brugess, the plaintiff’s attorneys, said in a press release issued after the verdict that it “sends a clear message that railroads must be as concerned about safety as they are profits.”

The accident occurred on September 2, 2011 when a conductor was working in a rail yard in Illinois where he was reorganizing railroad cars on several tracks.  It left the conductor with serious injuries. He suffered a traumatic amputation of his left heel at the scene. On arrival at the hospital, doctors found that the back half of his foot had no skin covering it and he had suffered from severed nerves, torn ligaments and tendons. He required a 15 square-inch skin graft to be cut out from his thigh to cover an area of his heel. The injury led to many complications. The worker was not able to bear weight on his foot for more than two years after the accident. Later, the graft ripped open, causing repeated infections that continue to plague his life. Ongoing problems dogged the worker after his accident.

The complaint filed against Norfolk Southern claimed that less than two months before the accident, the railroad replaced switches and track in the yard, creating a safety hazard for workers. The railroad had turned previously parallel tracks into a dangerous trap for workers because they were too closely aligned.

Lawyers for the defense argued the plaintiff parked cars in an area that was a, “no parking zone,” and was responsible for the hazardous condition that caused the injury. However, dash-cam footage from the train showing that other engineers in the yard had also left cars on parallel tracks, contradicting the railroad’s claim that the conductor was acting differently. The jury agreed that the railroad was responsible for creating the dangerous conditions in the yard and failing to properly inform employees of the hazards.

The jury returned a verdict of $22,470,102 in favor of the plaintiff and against Norfolk Southern Railway Company. The verdict allocated this severely injured worker $474,102 for future medical expenses; $1.5 million in lost benefits and earnings; $1.5 million for his disfigurement; and $19 million for pain and suffering.

This case again illustrated some of the dangers that workers face in railroad yards. Often a railroad is responsible for hazardous conditions in roads that kill and injure workers. Last year a worker was killed in CSX’s Acca yard in Richmond, Virginia.

If you have been hurt on the railroad or lost a loved one, call our railroad worker injury lawyers at 866-455-6657 for a free consultation.