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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.

The two injured workers had asserted in their legal argument that FELA protected their personal injury claims from easy defeat. If the counterclaim proceeded, then it would discourage injured workers in the future from pursuing damages from negligent employers.

The accident behind the case had involved a conductor and locomotive engineer who suffered injuries when their train hit another train parked on the track. Their lawsuit insisted that the company's violations of regulations resulted in their injuries. Their employer blamed the employees for the crash.

A person employed by a railroad company must navigate special laws to pursue compensation after a workplace accident. An attorney familiar with FELA claims could provide guidance that aids workers who must confront a company after suffering serious injuries at work. Legal support might help the person identify evidence of the employer's negligence that placed the worker in harm's way.

Source: Cook County Record, "Wisconsin Central RR blocked by FELA from countersuing employees it blames for train accident: Appeals panel", John Sammon, Dec. 28, 2018

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