Maryland’s Highest Court has ruled that federal law does not bar a railroad worker from recovering damages for degenerative conditions caused by having to continuously walk on crushed rocks in rail yards. On appeal, the court upheld a $1.25 million judgment. The decision affirmed a ruling by a state appellate court. The Plaintiff worked at various jobs for CSX for over 35 years. According to the Plaintiff, his duties had him walking one-and-a-half to two miles a day on the crushed rocks or “large ballast” that typically covers rail yards and walkways. The Plaintiff sued CSX under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), alleging that he suffers osteoarthritis of both knees from walking on the uneven surfaces that resulted from the railroad’s use of large ballast.
CSX argued that the Plaintiff’s lawsuit was preempted by a regulation promulgated under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA) setting minimum requirements for ballast used for railroad tracks. But the Court concluded that the regulation only bars a FELA negligence claim when the ballast performs a track-support function, not when the ballast is used for walkways, as alleged by the Plaintiff. The Court said in its opinion that CSX failed to meet its evidentiary burden for a preclusion defense.
Source: Lawyers USA Online
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