Engineer Falls From Ladder And Recovers Under Federal Employee Liability Act (Fela) ($800,000)
A Local 150 Union Operating Engineer recovered $800,000.00 from Burlington Northern for injuries sustained in both feet while he was repairing trailers and rail-cars owned by Burlington Northern.
The 39-year-old Operating Engineer tried to dismount from the trailer onto the ladder and the ladder tipped. He did not have any rails to reach for and suffered injuries to both feet.
The engineer was employed by Central Intermodal, a subcontractor for Burlington Northern Railroad at 38th and Kedzie in Chicago.
The Operating Engineer was required to use “A-Frame” ladders that did not reach the height of the trailers that needed repair. When required to climb to the top of the trailer, the engineer did not have rails to grasp for support. This practice violated the safety provision of ANSI and OSHA standards, which require that ladders travel three feet above the platform of where Engineers climb.
Our client tried to dismount from the trailer onto the ladder and the ladder tipped. He did not have any rails to reach for and suffered injuries to both feet. Because Burlington Northern exercised control over his work, it had a duty to provide him with a reasonably safe place to work.
The Engineer suffered fractures to both ankles and required a fusion to one ankle. He was able to return to his job with Central Intermodal but continued to experience chronic pain. Burlington Northern claimed that it was the Engineer’s own negligence for failing to use the ladder properly, that the ladder was, in fact, safe, and that since the Operating Engineer was able to return to his job, he could not have been severely injured.
“Once we showed Burlington Northern were subservient to the railroad, his claim improved dramatically,” said Clifford Horwitz. The FELA law permits the extension of benefits to persons who are employed by contractors “subservient to the railroad.”
“We utilized the Federal Employee Liability Act (FELA) as the primary law on his behalf,” Cliff explained. “We find that most firms are not aware of a rule that allows subcontractors’ employees to file claims against a railroad under the FELA. Most believe a person must be employed by the railroad in order to benefit by the FELA provisions, but that is not always the case, made evident here.”