Charles Goetsch Law Offices LLC

Railroad ordered to pay $2.1 million to former worker

Residents of Connecticut might be interested in the outcome of a wrongful termination suit that was filed against BNSF Railway. The plaintiff, a worker from Montana, was awarded $2.1 million in federal court on November 5 after a jury decided that BNSF had wrongfully terminated his employment after he suffered an on-the-job injury.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff was injured in 2015 while working as a conductor. Court documents describe the injury as occurring when the plaintiff grabbed a jammed door handle on a locomotive. He felt pain in his wrist and heard a popping sound. Later on, this wrist gave way when he grabbed a railing, which caused him to fall.

The worker reported the injury and the faulty door handle to his superiors. His attorney says that the company wanted him to claim that his wrist had been injured prior to his showing up for work that day. When the man refused, he was allegedly fired.

BNSF denied that it violated the law. After an 11-day trial, however, the jury decided in favor of the plaintiff. BNSF was found guilty of violating the Federal Employers' Liability Act and the Federal Railroad Safety Act, but it was not found guilty of violating the Locomotive Inspection Act.

The Federal Employers Liability Act protects railroad workers who have been injured while on the job. FELA claims can result in compensation being awarded to a worker, but in order for this to happen, employer negligence must be proven to have been responsible for the injury. This makes filing a claim under FELA different than filing a workers' compensation, which does not require proof of employer fault or negligence.

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