Earlier this month, an appellate court in Georgia issued a written opinion in a case brought by a railroad worker who was injured while on the job. The case required the court to decide if the injured worker presented enough evidence to justify the jury’s verdict in his favor. Ultimately, the court concluded that the injured worker did present at least some evidence that the employer was negligent, and therefore the jury’s verdict was ordered to stand. The case is important for Maryland personal injury plaintiffs because it shows one exception to the general rule that an injured employee cannot file a personal injury case against his employer.
Generally, employers are not liable for injuries sustained by employees while on the job beyond the remedies that can be obtained through the workers’ compensation program. However, in some limited circumstances, an employer may be held liable through a personal injury lawsuit. Importantly, if the employee was injured due to the negligence of a third party, the injured employee can file a personal injury lawsuit against that party without prohibition.
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) was enacted back in 1908 to protect railroad workers. The Act allows for injured railroad workers to file claims against their employers, similar to the workers’ compensation program. However, unlike the workers’ compensation program, FELA requires an injured employee to establish that his employer was at fault. As long as the employee is not found to be 100% at fault, the employee can prevail in a claim in state or federal court.
Importantly, FELA claims are viewed under the system of comparative fault, which is more advantageous for plaintiffs than its counterpart, contributory negligence. Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. all apply the doctrine of contributory negligence, which bars compensation when the plaintiff is even the slightest bit at fault. Thus, for injured railroad workers, FELA presents a better alternative than traditional workers’ compensation claims.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff in the case mentioned above was a railroad worker who fell into a hole while he was helping guide a train into the station at the end of the day. The worker was standing on a 10-foot-wide path created by the railroad company when he stepped back without looking and into the hole. The hole was covered in brush and was not marked or fenced off. The plaintiff filed a FELA claim against his employer, and the jury returned a verdict of over $1 million, which was reduced by 40% because the jury determined the plaintiff was 40% responsible for his own injuries. The railroad company appealed.
On appeal, the railroad company argued that there was no evidence it was negligent. The court, however, disagreed and upheld the jury’s verdict. The court explained that the railroad company had been operating in the area for 31 years, and it had never marked the hole or fenced it off, despite it being at the very edge of a path that was routinely used. The court also noted that the path was not well-lit. In the end, the court explained that there was at least some evidence that the railroad company was negligent. As a result of the court’s decision, the jury’s verdict was upheld.
Have You Been Injured in a Washington, D.C. Slip-and-Fall Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Washington, D.C. slip-and-fall accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. No matter where your injury occurred, the dedicated Washington, D.C. attorneys at the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC want to talk with you about your case. We operate on a contingency fee basis, meaning we will not bill you for our time and effort unless we can help you obtain the compensation you deserve. Call 410-654-3600 to schedule a free consultation today.
More Blog Posts:
The Importance of a Thorough Investigation in Washington, D.C. Car Accident Cases, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, July 11, 2017
Court Rejects Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Case for Lack of Evidence, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, June 30, 2017