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Railroads step up PTC implementation

Connecticut residents who regularly take the train know how serious a railway accident can become. In February 2018, an Amtrak passenger train crashed into a parked CSX train just outside of Columbia, South Carolina, killing two train workers and injuring a total of 116 people.

Railroad experts, closely following the investigation of the crash as it was being conducted by the National Transportation Safety Board, found that the CSX train crew had left a switch in the reverse position: The switch pushed the passenger train onto the rail where the parked locomotive was. The backup signal protection that could have prevented this human error was out of operation that day.

Injured rail workers can no longer sue NJ Transit

Connecticut residents may be interested to know that the 3rd Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled against a railroad worker who was suing NJ Transit for injuries suffered on the job. The judges claimed that the worker could not sue under the Federal Employers Liability Act because the transit authority was an arm of the state and had immunity. The decision could leave countless rail employees in Connecticut, New Jersey and beyond without legal protection in the event of an injury on the job.

The legal reasoning behind the court's decision was based on an interpretation of the 11th amendment of the United States Constitution. The amendment limits the power of the federal courts from taking certain action against the states. The four-page opinion cited a court case from a year earlier where they decided that NJ Transit had sovereign immunity from federal lawsuits.

About whistleblower laws

People in Connecticut who witness wrongdoings by their employer may suffer professional and personal repercussions if they become whistleblowers. Whistleblowers who want to keep their job should understand what is at risk and what type of legal protections they may have.

There are whistleblower laws on both the state and federal levels. One law, the False Claims Act, permits suits to be filed against entities or people who defraud the government and allows the plaintiff to receive a portion of any money that is recovered. This legislation also provides professional protections for people who engage in this type of whistleblowing.

Injured BNSF railroad worker awarded multimillion-dollar verdict

Railroad workers in Connecticut should know about an injury case in Lancaster County, Neb., that ended with the jury awarding an employee of BNSF Railway a multimillion-dollar verdict. The Federal Employers' Liability Act case started on Jan. 7 and ended Jan. 16.

The incident in question occurred on Feb. 22, 2014. The plaintiff, a carman for BNSF, was ordering empty rail cars from a coal train in need of repairs when the accident occurred. While he was setting a handbrake on the end car, five more cars collided with the train. One rolled over his left foot, which was in a steel-toe boot, and caused open fracture injuries requiring 13 surgeries to treat. The surgeries included a mid-foot amputation. Each car weighed about 4,900 pounds.

Railway worker awarded $1.63 million in lawsuit

New York residents may be interested to learn that a former railway maintenance worker was awarded $1.63 million by a California state court jury on Jan. 10. The maintenance worker filed a lawsuit against his former employer BNSF Railway Co. after getting hurt on the job. His final payout dwarfed BNSF's pre-trial settlement offer of $50,000.

The worker claimed he was injured on the job due to missing safety pins that caused an 83-pound rail rack to fall and hurt him, breaking his leg and injuring both his back and head. As a result, he was rendered unconscious and his memory of the entire event became a bit hazy. Even though his inability to fully remember the accident was problematic, he still had the right to sue BNSF based on the Federal Employers Liability Act.

Filing FELA claims

Personal injury is a serious matter, so it is important that railroad employees living in New York be aware of the legal recourse at their disposal should they get injured at the job: filing a claim under FELA. Unfortunately, the process of filing under FELA can be a bit convoluted, making it difficult to know what's to follow. Therefore, it is worth taking the time to understand how the process unfolds.

FELA claims starts with an injured employee filling out a report, detailing how they got injured on the job. Subsequently, both the railroad and the employee's attorney will conduct an investigation into what happened, which will inform the settlement discussions that will follow.

What qualifies as a false claim under the False Claims Act?

The False Claims Act (FCA) encourages citizens to confidentially report dishonest use of governmental money and imposes consequences on those who committed the fraud. The whistleblower is protected and typically receives a share of the recovered money. However, FCA lawsuits must follow specific procedures. If you are thinking of initiating a FCA lawsuit, a good place to start is by understanding when someone may be liable for a false claim.

The entity that submitted a false claim for payment to the government may be liable under the FCA if the claim was fraudulent. This means the claim was incorrect and the entity that submitted it knew that the claim was incorrect, intentionally maintained ignorance of the claim or disregarded the falsity of the claim.

Appeals court blocks railroad's lawsuit against injured workers

Railroad workers in Connecticut must contend with numerous workplace hazards on the job. When accidents and injuries happen, disputes about liability could emerge as was the case when a railroad company countersued two injured employees who had filed a personal injury claim against the company. In a 2-1 decision, a state-level appeals court agreed with the lower court decision that had rejected the employer's countersuit for damages.

The two judges based their decision on sections 55 and 60 of the Federal Employer's Liability Act. They reasoned that these sections prohibited railroad companies from attacking the personal injury claims of workers with counterclaims for property damage. In their opinion, the employer's property damage lawsuit represented an attempt to circumvent the will of Congress.

Overview of the Federal Employers Liability Act

Railroad workers in Connecticut are probably familiar with the Federal Employers Liability Act, one of the first mandates every passed by the U.S. Congress. Ever since it was enacted in 1906, the act has sought to protect railroad employees from misconduct and negligence on their employers' part and has compensated those employees who incur injuries.

The railroad industry grew rapidly, expanding westward and becoming one of the largest industries in the nation by the late 19th century. That was when President Benjamin Harrison, comparing railroad workers to soldiers in combat, brought attention to the dangers faced within the industry. The increase in railroad injuries and deaths came to a head with Johnson v. Southern Pacific Co., a landmark Supreme Court case in 1904.

Transit system whistleblower loses job

Connecticut workers who report unlawful conduct by other employees or supervisors are protected by state and federal whistleblower laws. However, the costs that come from speaking out can still be great. A man who formerly held a position as New Jersey's chief compliance officer for the transit system was fired after reporting favoritism among employees who had connections with the governor's office.

The man took the job, which paid a $175,000 yearly salary, believing that it would be a good chance to fix problems within the agency. Instead, he was told by supervisors to not write things down and avoid making a fuss about the problems he found. When he wanted to install a fax machine line for $27 per month to allow employees to send him complaints anonymously, he was denied funding.

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