A track laborer worked for a railroad for five and one-half years in various capacities. While working as a trackman on a section gang putting in railroad ties, he allegedly injured his neck. He did not report the injury, but told the foreman and supervisor that his neck hurt and his arm tingled. After seeing a neurosurgeon, he filled out an injury report nearly two (2) months later. In the report, he admitted that he could not state what date he was injured, where he was injured, the activity he was performing when he was injured, what caused his injury, or what tools caused the injury. Despite these shortcomings, he filed a claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. Â§ 51, et seq. (FELA) claiming the railroad failed to provide him with a safe workplace and improperly assigned him to tasks beyond his physical capabilities.
A railroad worker alleging an FELA claim need only show that the railroad’s negligence contributed even slightly to his or her injury. The track worker testified that he suffered an acute injury while placing railroad ties after the number of workers on the crew and the tools available had been diminished during his time with the railroad. He also alleged that the railroad took no action after it was informed of his injury and continually assigned him to shifts, resulting in a cumulative trauma injury.
GAB counsel successfully moved for summary judgment arguing that the relaxed FELA causation standard does not affect the obligation to prove that the railroad was in fact negligent. Counsel for GAB highlighted the fact that the injured worker could not point to a defective tool or a working condition that caused the injury, could not identify the date of his injury, where he was injured, what he was doing when injured, or what caused his injury. Litigation counsel also relied on expert opinion showing that the track laborer’s job duties did not present an increased risk of injury and further showed that the injured worker has no evidence that his job was unreasonably dangerous, that the tools he used were inadequate, or that his workplace was not safe. Based on the overwhelming evidence and legal authority provided to the court by GAB counsel, summary judgment was granted in the railroad’s favor. Although plaintiff appealed the grant of summary judgment, GAB successfully upheld the trial court’s decision to end this case.