Supreme Court to hear attack on FELA

December 6, 2010

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court will hear an argument by CSX in 2011 challenging standards for rail workers bringing lawsuits under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), reports Bloomberg.

The decision could affect future FELA cases.

The specific case to be heard, reports Bloomberg, involves a CSX engineer who won a $184,250 FELA award for a hand injury suffered while on duty.

Said Bloomberg, “The case centers on the test for determining whether a railroad’s negligence was the cause of an employee’s injury.”

The federal judge hearing that case, reports Bloomberg, told the jury “that the railroad was responsible for negligence if its negligence ‘played a part — no matter how small — in bringing about the injury.'”

CSX, according to Bloomberg, contends that injured rail workers should meet a more demanding standard, as is required in other types of personal-injury lawsuits not covered by the FELA, which applies only to railroads and their workers.

The more demanding standard would require the employer’s action to be the “primary cause” of the injury, known as “proximate cause” in legal jargon.