Railroad Cancer Lawsuits Lead to Multi-Million Dollar Pay Outs

Railroad workers were exposed to hazardous chemicals in their work for decades. In recent months, a series of railroad cancer lawsuits has been filed across America.

The latest to hit the headlines was brought by a widow from South Carolina. She is suing CSX Transportation Inc., claiming negligence on behalf of the railroad. The lawsuit says  CSX took insufficient safety measures to prevent her late husband’s death.

Rutha Frieson, a special administrator of the estate of Marvin Frieson, filed a complaint at the end of 2016 in St. Clair County Circuit Court in Illinois, reported the Madison St. Clair Record. The lawsuit claims CSX failed to provide a safe place to work for Frieson, a railroad worker who died after developing stomach cancer that metastasized to colon cancer.

The lawsuit claims Frieson was exposed to asbestos-containing materials during his work with CSX. It claims the exposure caused him to develop stomach cancer, ultimately leading to his death in November 2014.

CSX case is latest in series of railroad cancer lawsuits
CSX is sued in railroad cancer lawsuit

Frieson’s widow claims CSX failed to provide a safe working environment for her husband when he was a railroad worker.

She claims she suffered serious losses as a result of her husband’s death. The plaintiff claims CSX Transportation Inc. failed to provide adequate and safe equipment to protect Frieson from inhaling dangerous asbestos fibers. She claims CSX failed to provide warnings and instructions on how to use materials that contained asbestos fibers.

Railroad Cancer Lawsuits Resulted in Major Verdicts

Last June, a railroad cancer lawsuit was filed by Clarence Mayberry. He claims he was exposed to solar radiation and creosote from 1968-2009. He said a lack of protective equipment from Union Pacific caused him to develop basal cell carcinomas on his head and neck.

Last September, a jury in Madison County awarded $7.5 million to James Brown. The railroad worker was diagnosed with cancer after years of exposure to toxic chemicals, creosote, lead and degreasing solvents on the railroad.

Brown was diagnosed with myeloid leukemia in 2008. In December 2010, he filed a lawsuit under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) blaming Union Pacific and Chicago & North Western Railway (CNW), for failing to give him protective equipment.

In 2014, two cases of hazardous exposure to chemicals in New Jersey were settled for $2.05 million.

As a FELA injury lawyer with decades of experience in representing injured railroad workers, I have seen the terrible impacts dangerous chemicals and substances can have on workers.

In many cases, workers were given inadequate protection from deadly substances. Diesel, coal dust, creosote, and asbestos on the railroads can cause cancer and other incurable diseases.

If you believe you have grounds to file a railroad cancer lawsuit, call us today at (866) 455-6657.

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.

Railroads Delay Positive Train Control Safety Measures Again

john-web-imageBy John Cooper, FELA Accident Lawyer

I have written before about Positive Train Control, a system that may have prevented the terrible Amtrak crash in Philadelphia last year and would save many railroad workers from injuries.

PTC can automatically slow or stop trains to avoid collisions and derailments and protect areas of track where crews are working. The only problem with the system is the fact America’s big railroads are dragging their heels when it comes to implementing it.

PTC is intended to prevent serious crashes like this Amtrak wreck
PTC is intended to prevent serious crashes like this Amtrak wreck

Three of the biggest railroads in North America – Canadian National Railway, CSX and Norfolk Southern say they won’t meet a 2018 deadline for the installation of this key piece of railroad safety technology, reported Progressive Railroading.

A list provided from the Federal Railroad Administration reveals these three railroads say they won’t be ready to install PTC until 2020. A number of smaller commuter railroads in Illinois, Florida, Massachusetts and Texas also said they will miss the deadline.

Amtrak is already operating a version of the technology on its tracks but it’s far from comprehensive because most of Amtrak’s operations outside the Northeast are on track owned by freight railroads. Three freight railroads said they would be able to meet the 2018 deadline.

The 2018 date itself represents a postponement of the new safety measures. At the end of last year, Congress extended an original deadline of Dec. 31, 2015, to the end of 2018, as railroads threatened to shut down operations. The new legislation contains provisions, under certain circumstances, that railroads would have until 2020 to implement the safety technology.

However, after Congress approved the later date, FRA Administrator Sarah Feinberg told railroads they should not assume they have until 2020 to install and begin using PTC on their networks. As long as years ago I was warning the big railroads were backsliding on PTC.

It has taken many tragedies to force the hand of legislators. Congress opted for positive train control in the wake of one of the nation’s worst train accidents in 2008, when a Metrolink commuter train hit a freight train head-on near Los Angeles in California, leaving 25 people dead and injuring more than 100.

We frequently see accidents in rail yards that injure or kill workers that could be avoided if PTC was in place. If you have been injured on the railroad, call me at (866) 455-6657.

Insufficient Help : A Common Claim in FELA Cases

By John Cooper, Railroad Worker Injury Attorney

Often the cause of injuries on the railroad to workers results from crew size reductions that have happened over time on the major railroads like CSX and Norfolk Southern.  The giant freight railroads of the east reduce their labor costs whenever they can. Sometimes they replace men with machines and other times just get rid of people without providing additional help of any sort in the important tasks for railroad workers in all departments including transportation, mechanical and engineering.

Often an allegation that we make as lawyers filing Federal Employer Liability Act (FELA) claims is that there was a lack of help provided to the worker, and this made their job unsafe.  Allegations of negligence by the railroads, causing injuries to engineers, conductors, car men and maintenance way workers can be about the equipment provided or the method of doing the work.  If the method of doing the job is unsafe and a worker gets injured, then the railroad can be held responsible for that railroad worker’s injury.

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For example, any task that involves lifting heavy objects from 50 pounds to 150 pounds might be more safely done by two men or with the assistance of a crane or hydraulic lift.  These kinds of lifting tasks occur throughout the railroad, and yet often one person is forced to lift some extremely heavy object in such a way that they end up hurting their back or having the heavy object fall on them and crush their foot or similar body part.  Usually what you find is that the railroad either over time stopped providing two guys to do the job, or they have set up the worker on a task either in a late-night shift or somewhere out on the road where there are not enough people around to make the job safe.

If you have been hurt on the job, it’s always important to report your injury.  On the injury reports one of the places that they demand information from the railroad worker about the railroad’s fault will say something like were you provided with a reasonably safe place.  One easy way to answer this question is always “insufficient help.”

It’s almost always true that if there were more staff for the job, a particular injury could have been avoided.  Over time, the train crews that operates freight up and down the tracks have gone from five-member crews down to two and sometimes even one-person crews.  They got rid of the firefighters, assistant conductors, and other workers over time.  Now there are trains being regularly operated in railroad yards across America and it’s only one employee with a remote control box so that there’s not even anybody actually physically on the locomotive.  This is a recipe for a disaster, and it’s just one example of inadequate staffing or insufficient help that can lead to wrecks and even deaths during railroad work.

If you have been hurt on the railroad due to poor staffing levels, or any other factor, call Coper Hurley Injury Lawyers at (866) 455-6657.

Railroads Dominate Whistleblower Claims To OSHA

By John Cooper, Railroad Injury Lawyer

As a railroad worker, you can face a dilemma if you see and report dangerous conditions on the job. Although reporting a hazard is the sensible thing to do for the sake of your welfare and that of your fellow workers, the big railroads don’t always see it that way.

The railroads are often more interested in their profits than in your safety, and they don’t take criticism well. An example is provided in a recent article in Fairwarning.org.

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Mike Elliott, a railroad worker from Washington State, became so concerned with signals that were inexplicably changing, he took up the issue with BNSF Railway Co. He quickly found the railroad had no interest in addressing the problem so took it up with the Federal Railroad Administration,

That’s when his problems began. The regulator found 357 safety violations, including 112 signal system defects on the tracks. Elliott lost his job as a locomotive engineer.

Fortunately, the federal whistleblower laws are in place for this kind of scenario. This summer a jury ruled BNSF’s action was illegal retaliation.

Elliott was awarded $1.25 million, although the award is being appealed. Commentators say it highlights the unjust punishment that is given to workers who report issues and reflect the old-style management tactics on the railroad.

There are no fewer than 22 federal whistleblower rules administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.  They are still widely flouted by employers.

Fairwarning.org alluded to OSHA figures that show, workers employed by railroads filed in excess of 2,000 retaliation complaints against their employers. The fact seven railroads were in the list of the 10 worst offenders highlights the extent of the problem in this industry where safety is paramount.

BNSF led the way with 409 complaints, followed by Union Pacific, which had 360 whistleblower complaints. CSX and Norfolk Southern were in fourth and fifth place with 267 and 247 complaints respectively. Almost half of the cases brought against the railroads have been upheld.

In some cases, workers have been fired for reporting an injury. There is certainly a culture on the railroads that leads workers to believe they will be discriminated against if they file an official report after being hurt, even though they have a right to seek compensation under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) when they are not to blame.

I have represented injured railroad workers for more than two decades. If you have been hurt on the railroads, call me for a free consultation at 866-455-6677.

Nine Workers Lose Their Lives on the Railroads in 2015

John-cooperBy John Cooper, FELA Injury Lawyer

I am often asked how dangerous the railroads are. With fewer workers and streamlined safety systems surely the railroads are safer than in previous years.  While it’s true that the railroads are safer than say 30 years ago, that does not mean they are safe or that the railroads are doing all they can to protect their workers.

The Railroad Workers United (RWU) union provides details of workers who are killed on the railroad. It has recorded nine deaths in 2015 so far. The most recent death it notes was on May 25, when BNSF maintenance of way employee Tyrell Anderson was killed in a rail yard in Minneapolis. A BNSF spokesperson said that a locomotive passing on another track struck the material causing it to fall on the worker.

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In April, an R.J. Corman Railroad Group employee was killed in a railroad work accident in Illinois. The 20-year-old suffered a fatal head injury while working along Canadian Pacific Railroad tracks near the village of Forreston. He was in an all-terrain vehicle near a location where other workers were using a large magnetic boom to pick up metal railroad spikes along the tracks. According to reports, the boom spun out of control, striking the four-seat vehicle, the local sheriff’s department said.

In the same month a 48-year-old worker of Texico  was killed when two freight trains collided head-on about 10 miles southeast of Roswell in New Mexico. Another worker was injured.

On April 15 in Omaha, Nebraska two employees of a contract company, Nebraska Railcar Cleaning Services, hired by GE Capital Rail Services were killed in a blast while cleaning out a tanker car. The force of the exposition blew one man off a tanker car and to the ground, while the ladder shot out of the car and left another man trapped.

Also in April a CN conductor died in Saskatoon in Canada as a result of injuries he sustained from an accident when he was working at a CN rail yard while a 35-year-old man from Pine Bluff was killed when he was hit by a train while working at Evergreen Packaging. He was said to be coupling several train cars when the operator radioed to  him to failed to receive a response.

April was a deadly month on the railroads. On April 1, a worker was killed when he was struck by a CSX train in the Acca rail yard in Richmond, Virginia. 

On March 17, a 51-year-old worker was killed in Fairfield, California, when a taxi hired by Union Pacific Railroad to transport his crew rolled off the side of a freeway near the Interstate 680/Interstate 80 interchange, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Another worker was killed in California in February. BLET member Glenn Steele died after a Metrolink collision. He was working as a locomotive engineer when his train collided with a heavy pickup truck near Oxnard.

The fact the death toll of railroad workers has almost reached double figures in 2015 demonstrates how dangerous the railroads can still be. If you have been hurt on the railroad of if you have lost a loved one, call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 866-455-6657.

 

Railroad Worker is Killed in Accident at Richmond’s CSX Acca Yard

John-cooperBy John Cooper, Virginia Railroad Worker Injury Lawyer

When accidents occur on the railroad they can be very severe. Rail yards are particularly dangerous places. I was saddened to read about the death of a worker who was killed by a train train early Wednesday in Richmond, Virginia, in what authorities are describing as an industrial accident at the CSX Acca Yard.

The Richmond Times-Dispatch reported on how police responded at 2:56 a.m. to the yard in the 2100 block of Westwood Avenue. Police said a man was hit by and killed by train while at work.

The death is under investigation by CSX Railroad, Henrico Police, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the National Transportation Safety Board.

Richmond's Acca yard
Richmond’s Acca yard

My thoughts are with those who the worker left behind after this terrible accident. I understand the train was being remotely controlled at the time of the accident. Remote controlled locomotives have been used by the big railroads for a number of years, but they are not as safe as having an alert engineer on a train with his eyes wide open and a horn on hand to warn railroad workers.

Rail yards are dangerous places and the scenes of many fatal and serious accidents. Last September, the media reported on how an industrial accident at the rail yard of the Gerdau Steel Mill in Dinwiddie County, Virginia, severely injured the legs of a railroad worker.

If you are a rail yard worker who was hurt on the job or if you lost a loved one in a rail yard accident, you may have grounds to file a lawsuit under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA).

FELA has existed for more than a century to protect the rights and health of railroad workers who suffered an appalling number of injuries and deaths before its enactment.

If you are a railroad employee who has been injured on the job or developed a work-related illness or a family member has lost his or her life on the railroad, please call our experienced FELA attorneys at 866-455-6657 today. Your initial consultation is free of charge and if we represent you there is no fee unless we recover compensation for you.

CSX Train Carrying Oil Derails and Explodes in West Virginia

John-cooperBy John Cooper, Railroad Injury Lawyer

I have written on numerous occasions about how serious weaknesses in tankers cars that carry oil and other inflammable liquids, have been a factor in explosions on the railroad. In some cases these have caused loss of life and misery to communities.

It was, therefore, no surprise to me when another train derailed and exploded  in West Virginia. The freight train owas bound for Yorktown in Tidewater.

The New York Times reported on how a train hauling millions of pounds of crude oil that derailed on Monday in West Virginia was still on fire on Tuesday night as oil poured from the mangled wreckage.

The utility West Virginia American Water, feared that oil had been dumped into the Kanawha River. It closed a treatment plant downstream, in Montgomery, and local residents were relying on bottled water. However, the company reopened the plant Tuesday, saying tests had revealed “non-detectable levels of the components of crude oil” in the river. Even so, aerial photographs appeared to show oil from the wreck had reached a nearby creek. More than 2,000 people were advised to boil their water.

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

The explosion on a CSX train  carrying 109 tanker cars and two locomotives, followed a derailment early on Monday afternoon. It sent fireballs through the air. The governor’s office released a press release stating that 26 tankers had derailed and that “19 of those tankers were involved in the fire.”

It’s a depressingly familiar story that has led to a national debate about the safety of transporting oil by rail. Three years ago, the American Association of Railroads required new tanker cars to meet higher standards to resist rupturing in accidents, though it did not require refitting the suspect older cars. The tankers in Monday’s crash had all been built to the new specifications, CSX claimed.

During the derailment, some tanker cars left the tracks entirely, “piling against each other at odd angles or tumbling down the riverbank,” stated the New York Times. There were multiple explosions.

In 2014, an oil train derailed and exploded in Lynchburg, Virginia. Last year I wrote about how these oil trains are an accident waiting to happen in Hampton Roads. Call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers if you have been injured in a railroad accident at 866-455-6657.

Why Increased Railroad Profits Don’t Equate to Better Safety

By John Cooper, Railroad Accident Lawyer

The railroads are getting richer and richer, but the extra profits don’t necessarily equate to safer conditions for workers or better infrastructure.

Recently, I noted how Norfolk Southern Corp. reported record profits in the second quarter of 2014. The Virginian-Pilot reported on how the Norfolk-based railroad saw net income surge by 21 percent on the previous year to $562 million. The Pilot reported it was the first time the railroad’s revenue topped that level “in any quarter in the railroad’s history.”

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CSX reported big profits

Now a report in the Wall Street Journal points to big gains by CSX which reported its fourth-quarter earnings rose by 15 percent last year.

Industry analysts say the drop in crude oil prices will not significantly affect the railroads. They expect most railroads to post strong fourth quarter gains. Wall Street experts say they expect most railroads to also post double digit 2015 earnings per share growth due to an increase in prices and improved service.

“The big problem for rail won’t be lost oil revenue, it will be stiffer competition from trucks,” stated the Wall Street Journal.

Lower fuel prices are likely to cut into the advantages rail freight has had over trucks in recent years.

The talk of big profits on the railroads will mean little to railroad workers who often face unacceptable dangers in their jobs.

Recently I noted how a poor safety culture led to five Metro North train crashes. We still have a culture in which hazardous conditions make slip and fall accidents common on the railroad.

There are also many infrastructure problems with the tracks and America has scores of substandard grade crossings that are an accident waiting to happen.

Business is continuing to grow on the railroads. That could equate to greater accident potential as railroads carry more freight. If you have been hurt on the railroad, you should call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 866-455-6657 for a free consultation.

Florida Railroad Accidents Lead to Faulty Crossing Claims

Faulty railroad crossings can pose a danger to railroad workers, drivers and passengers on trains. When a crossing fails to work properly, a railroad can be liable for any injuries.

Recently 10 News in Florida, wrote about an investigation following after complaints over the timing of a crossing signal at a busy railroad crossing that has been linked to a number of crashes.

Grade crossings are dangerous places. If they are malfunctioning, the result could be injuries or the loss life. The news station quoted a member of the public, Michael Kribbs, who said it’s a problem that if left unsolved could lead to fatalities. The report makes me wonder how many other crossings across the country are an accident waiting to happen.

Kribbs told the TV news station he wants answers about the railroad crossing: “I know of at least three Amtrak wrecks involved with 18- wheelers right there at the same spot.” He said. He lives near County Line Road and U.S. 92 in Lakeland, Florida and was at the scene of a serious accident there last weekend.

Investigators from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said a truck driver from New Jersey, told them he was able to travel only about 40 yards before the green light at the crossing turned to red. His cab cleared the railroad tracks but his trailer failed to make it. It was straddling the tracks when the crossing arms came down and within seconds an Amtrak train with 95 passengers on board slammed into the middle of his trailer packed with tomatoes.

Fortunately, there were no deaths or serious injuries in this crash. It could have been so much worse.

10 News contacted CSX because it maintains the crossing signal and the tracks at the crossing. Kristin Seay, of CSX Corporate Communications, told the TV team the timing at the crossing would be relevant: That will be part of the investigation. Anytime an incident occurs we look at three things. We look at the track, we look at the equipment meaning the locomotive and the rail cars, and how the train was being operated,” she said.

If you have been hurt at a railroad crossing, contact Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 866-455-6657.