We represent the widow of a railroad worker who sued her husband’s employers under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) which permits an injured worker to bring a lawsuit directly against his employers. The FELA applies to railroad workers, who do not have recourse to the State’s workers’ compensation insurance system. 

Our client’s husband died of lung cancer at the age of 61. Originally, the lawsuit proceeded on the theory that the cancer resulted from occupational exposure to asbestos-containing products encountered in the course of the decedent’s work as a brakeman, switchman, conductor or fireman. As the investigation unfolded, it was ascertained that the plaintiff’s husband suffered significant exposure to diesel engine exhaust. It was learned that the railroad industry had known for decades that diesel exhaust was harmful when inhaled. In fact, in 1955, the Association of American Railroads was already well aware not only of the potential danger from exposure to diesel locomotive exhaust but also that the FELA was sufficiently broad to allow lawsuits against the railroads for disease resulting from diesel exposure.

In 1946, most locomotives in service in the United States were still powered by steam boilers, but, by 1959, already 95% of the locomotives in service were diesel powered. In recent years scientists and doctors studying the effects of diesel exhaust exposure have concluded that lung cancer is causally related to diesel exhaust.

The use of diesel powered engines is not, of course, confined to the railroad industry. It is very likely that anyone spending considerable time in a confined or enclosed area such as a truck terminal contaminated by diesel exhaust may eventually experience ill health effects as a result.At this time a decision is awaited from the judge presiding over this case whether the plaintiff will be allowed to amend her lawsuit to add the allegations of diesel fume exposure. Assuming that the Court grants us this permission to amend the lawsuit, the case will move toward trial on both the asbestos and diesel fume exposure theories.

We are aware of this growing modern threat and welcome your inquiries.