ILNews

COA rules on first impression railroad issue

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

In an issue of first impression, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded a Federal Employer Liability Act claim premised on unsafe ballast isn't precluded by Federal Railroad Safety Act regulations of ballast in a man's suit for injuries he sustained while employed with a transportation company.

In Russell A. DeHahn v. CSX Transportation Inc., No. 79A02-0905-CV-443, CSX employee Russell DeHahn sued his employer claiming CSX was liable under the FELA for injuries he suffered while performing inspection duties. He had to walk on the outside of the track on the ends, in some areas that were covered with ballast - gravel placed in a roadbed to provide a firm surface for the track and to hold the track in line. Some of the ballast rolled out from under his feet, causing him to fall down an embankment and injure himself. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of CSX because it found DeHahn's expert's report and affidavit weren't timely filed and couldn't be considered. The trial court didn't address CSX's other argument that his claim was preempted by the FRSA.

Outside of Indiana, other jurisdictions have split over whether FRSA regulations of ballast preclude a FELA-based claim premised upon a claim of unsafe ballast. The appellate court looked to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in CSX Transportation Inc. v. Easterwood, 507 U.S. 658 (1993), and cases from the Colorado Court of Appeals and Maryland Court of Special Appeals to rule the FRSA regulation of ballast doesn't "cover" DeHahn's FELA claim that CSX was negligent in its placement of ballast on top of the railroad ties. FRSA and FELA aren't in conflict and FRSA is more concerned with the safety of the train and prevention of derailments.

"In light of FELA's humanitarian purpose, and the liberal construction given to effectuate this humanitarian purpose, we cannot say that DeHahn's FELA claim that CSX was negligent by leaving ballast on top of crossties is precluded by FRSA regulations governing ballast," wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

There is also evidence, even if DeHahn's expert's report is still excluded, that is sufficient to preclude summary judgment. There is a genuine issue of material fact whether CSX was negligent in failing to remove the ballast from the crossties. The appellate court reversed summary judgment for CSX and remanded for further proceedings.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Hmmmmm ..... How does the good doctor's spells work on tyrants and unelected bureacrats with nearly unchecked power employing in closed hearings employing ad hoc procedures? Just askin'. ... Happy independence day to any and all out there who are "free" ... Unlike me.

  2. Today, I want to use this opportunity to tell everyone about Dr agbuza of agbuzaodera(at)gmail. com, on how he help me reunited with my husband after 2 months of divorce.My husband divorce me because he saw another woman in his office and he said to me that he is no longer in love with me anymore and decide to divorce me.I seek help from the Net and i saw good talk about Dr agbuza and i contact him and explain my problem to him and he cast a spell for me which i use to get my husband back within 2 days.am totally happy because there is no reparations and side-effect. If you need his help Email him at agbuzaodera(at)gmail. com

  3. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  4. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  5. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

ADVERTISEMENT