By 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.
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.