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.
Whether or not NJ Transit employees will be able to sue in the future is not certain. A bill in the New Jersey Senate would strip immunity away from the organization, allowing workers to seek compensation when injured. In the court's decision, some of the language was sympathetic to the plight of injured workers, but the judges stated that they had to follow precedent in the case.
Railroad or other government employees who are injured on the job may be able to sue for compensation using FELA claims. Injuries can result in lost wages, hospital bills, rehabilitation costs and pain and suffering. Under some circumstances, the government may decide to settle with an employee, but that is not always the case. A lawyer who represents a personal injury victim could help file a lawsuit and argue on their behalf in court.