Martin E. Jackson recently obtained a ruling from the Court granting summary judgment in favor of his client who was injured when the automatic coupling system on a cut of rail cars failed to couple as required by the Federal Safety Appliance Act. Summary judgment means that the judge in the case ruled that the Union Pacific had violated the federal law and therefore the railroad was legally responsible as a matter of law for payment of money damages to the injured worker. Also, by terms of the Federal Employers' Liability Act, the railroad was legally forbidden to raise any defense to the lawsuit based upon any negligent act committed by the injured worker. In this case, the railroad sought to blame the railroader for his own injuries because he, very courageously, chased down the run-away rail cars, set the handbrakes and prevented injuries to others at the expense to injuries to himself. The railroad argued that the rail cars were not "in use" as required by the Act because the cars were engaged in switching operations. The judge ruled that the Act applied to the switching operations and that the railroad was strictly liable for the worker's injury.
The case settled for a confidential amount two weeks after the judge's ruling.
The Federal Safety Appliance Act can be a powerful tool to protect the rights of an injured railroad worker along with the FELA. The Act applies to the air brake systems of cars and locomotives, the handbrakes, the couplers, grab irons, sill steps and other portions of locomotives and cars which are required to be in safe working condition. If they are not, and a railroader is injured because of the violation of the Act, the railroad is responsible for all of the injuries and other harm suffered by the worker. Please call the Law Offices of Martin E. Jackson if you have questions about the Federal Safety Appliance Act, the FELA or any other matter we can help you with.