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Rick Shapiro
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2 Million Dollar FELA Verdict For Railroad Engineer Against CSX: Improperly Mounted Seats/Seatbacks and Repetitive Rough Couplings

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Pennsylvania FELA attorneys Mike Olley and David Lockard reported an important FELA personal injury verdict in favor of railroad engineer that was returned May 2008, in Philadelphia state court in a case called Lockley v. CSX.

Lockley, age 53, had been a yard railroad engineer for about 33 years and complained that he had been subjected to multiple rough couplings of train cars, which caused stress on his cervical spine. He was later diagnosed with carpal tunnel syndrome, but ultimately a neck MRI revealed multi-level cervical disc damage. Eventually this forced the engineer to stop working at his job for CSX. In 2007 he underwent a cervical fusion/neck surgery and even after surgery he continued to suffer pain and will need injections in his neck in the future. His future medical expenses were estimated at close to $50,000 and his past lost income was $100,000 and his estimated future wage losses were $850,000.

Interestingly, Lockley sued CSX alleging that the locomotive’s seats were low back style seats and were improperly mounted and braced in violation of the federal Locomotive Inspection Act, and in violation of the Federal Employers Liability Act. Ultimately, the plaintiff Lockley claimed the seat designs, combined with years of rough coupling, led to his cumulative spinal injuries.

CSX contended that the plaintiff’s injuries were all existing before he worked with the railroad and were age-related and the plaintiff had violated various railroad rules by coupling during railroad movements at speeds greater than the 4 mph set forth under CSX rules. One of CSX’s defenses was that the plaintiff had not reported seat problems nor his ongoing physical problems while he worked, arguing that this was negligence on his part.

The Philadelphia jury awarded plaintiff two million dollars, determining that CSX violated the FELA negligence standard, as well as violated the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA). However, because the jury found CSX violated the Locomotive Inspection Act, a federal statute, this meant that no contributory or comparative negligence of the plaintiff would reduce the verdict even though the jury in another finding found the plaintiff was 22% comparatively negligent.

The plaintiff’s lawyers did a thorough job in determining that the seats were improperly mounted and that alone could be considered a violation of the Locomotive Inspection Act. This allegation coupled with the others obviously convinced the jury of the overall fault of CSX. In any FELA case alleging repetitive or cumulative tasks that cause injuries, our law firm’s personal injury lawyers usually also obtain expert testimony from an expert in ergonomics called an ergonomist Ergonomics is essentially the study of work tasks of a repetitive nature, and how to avoid such repetitive or cumulative trauma injuries in the workplace.