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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  2. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

  3. This outbreak illustrates the absurdity of the extreme positions taken by today's liberalism, specifically individualism and the modern cult of endless personal "freedom." Ebola reminds us that at some point the person's own "freedom" to do this and that comes into contact with the needs of the common good and "freedom" must be curtailed. This is not rocket science, except, today there is nonstop propaganda elevating individual preferences over the common good, so some pundits have a hard time fathoming the obvious necessity of quarantine in some situations....or even NATIONAL BORDERS...propagandists have also amazingly used this as another chance to accuse Western nations of "racism" which is preposterous and offensive. So one the one hand the idolatry of individualism has to stop and on the other hand facts people don't like that intersect with race-- remain facts nonetheless. People who respond to facts over propaganda do better in the long run. We call it Truth. Sometimes it seems hard to find.

  4. It would be hard not to feel the Kramers' anguish. But Catholic Charities, by definition, performed due diligence and held to the statutory standard of care. No good can come from punishing them for doing their duty. Should Indiana wish to change its laws regarding adoption agreements and or putative fathers, the place for that is the legislature and can only apply to future cases. We do not apply new laws to past actions, as the Kramers seem intent on doing, to no helpful end.

  5. I am saddened to hear about the loss of Zeff Weiss. He was an outstanding member of the Indianapolis legal community. My thoughts are with his family.

ADVERTISEMENT