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COA rules on first impression railroad issue

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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.

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  1. As one of the many consumers affected by this breach, I found my bank data had been lifted and used to buy over $200 of various merchandise in New York. I did a pretty good job of tracing the purchases to stores around a college campus just from the info on my bank statement. Hm. Mr. Hill, I would like my $200 back! It doesn't belong to the state, in my opinion. Give it back to the consumers affected. I had to freeze my credit and take out data protection, order a new debit card and wait until it arrived. I deserve something for my trouble!

  2. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  3. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  4. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  5. Different rules for different folks....

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