Railroad workers faced dangerous work conditions throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. As a result, in 1908, the United States Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act, commonly referred to as FELA, allowing Railroad workers to directly sue their Railroad employer for any injury suffered on the job.
These workers were at risk for injury due to accidents, derailments, collisions and faulty equipment. Due to their exposure to asbestos and diesel exhaust, railroad workers are also at a substantially higher risk for occupational diseases, such as mesothelioma, lung cancer and laryngeal cancer. These diseases show up years after the worker’s initial exposure.
Lipsitz and Ponterio, LLC has represented Brakemen, Conductors, Engineers, Firemen, Switchmen and railroad maintenance workers who developed cancer as a result of their exposure to dangerous levels of both asbestos and diesel exhaust.
FELA requires a railroad to use reasonable care to provide its employees with a safe place to work. This duty includes the obligations to maintain the workplace in a reasonably safe condition and to provide employees with reasonably safe and sufficient equipment.
There is an absolute duty upon the railroad to provide a locomotive free of all safety hazards for the workers.
Prior to the late 1970s, railroad workers were exposed to asbestos-containing insulation materials used on cab heater lines, steam generators, steam boilers, the Y pipe that leads to the cab heater, governor lines, radiator supply and return lines, air compressor discharge lines, oil preheat lines, and expansion tank lines. Due to wear and tear, asbestos insulation materials required frequent removal and replacement. Both processes emitted large amounts of asbestos dust and fibers, which workers inhaled.
Asbestos-containing brakes were another source of asbestos exposure for Railroad workers. When the brakes were engaged, asbestos dust was emitted and exposed railroad workers to dangerous levels of asbestos dust.
By the mid-1950s, diesel locomotives began replacing steam-driven locomotives. Idling diesel locomotives emitted large quantities of diesel exhaust. Open locomotive windows, cracks in the body of the cabs, and leaks in the diesel exhaust system caused workers to inhale diesel exhaust. Railroad workers commonly refer to the blue haze they could see when the locomotives were left running.
Some of the Railroads owned and operated throughout the State of New York in the 20th Century include:
- Arcade and Attica Railroad
- Bath & Hammondsport Railroad (B&H Rail Corporation)
- Buffalo Creek Railroad
- Consolidated Rail Corporation
- Delaware and Hudson Railway Company
- Erie Lackawanna Railroad
- Erie Railroad
- Livonia, Avon and Lakeville Railroad
- Lowville and Beaver River Railroad
- Massena Terminal Railroad
- New York & Lake Erie
- New York Central Railroad
- Norfolk Southern Railway
- Ontario Central Railroad
- Ontario Midland Railroad
- Penn Central
- Pennsylvania Railroad
- South Buffalo Railway
- Vermont Railway
Lipsitz and Ponterio, LLC has successfully litigated FELA cases for over twenty years. If you or a loved one worked for a Railroad and have suffered an injury or illness, including mesothelioma or lung cancer, please contact us.