Stellar Employee Incorrectly Blamed and Battered
As you may know, we handle many types of personal injury claims. One of our areas of expertise is the Federal Employers Liability Act, or “FELA.” This law applies to railroad industry employees. Unlike most of us who are protected by state workers’ compensation laws, when railroad employees are injured on their jobs, they’re protected by FELA.
Although repairing and running railroad cars has become much safer in recent decades, it still involves significant risks of injury.
Like our previous issues, here we share how we handled an unusual FELA injury case.
Operator with Excellent Track Record
We represented a young African-American (this description is relevant as you will discover when you read further) man who worked for several years as a heavy equipment operator in a local Amtrak railroad yard. It was important to this case that our client had an excellent “track” record (no pun intended).
Blamed for Mishap
A new supervisor was assigned to our client’s unit. Shortly after his arrival, there was an accident involving damage to an underground cable, and—without evidence and with disregard of the operator’s impressive work history—our client was immediately blamed for the mishap.
The supervisor was furious about the damage and the resulting cost of repairs. His tirade escalated to an extreme level; he not only verbally abused our client—while he laid on his back to fix wiring— the supervisor pulled out and opened a switchblade knife.
Verbally Abused and Threatened
While standing over our client and holding his opened knife, the supervisor threatened the young man with the loss of his job and told him NOT to make any claims for the incident because, “He had handled claims from blacks before and nothing ever came of them.”
In response to this undeserved threat, our client didn’t engage in any verbal or physical altercation. Instead, (scared and shaken) he quietly left the job site.
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
This young, hard-working man experienced a serious emotional reaction to this incident, which his treating physician diagnosed as post-traumatic stress disorder.
Our client was out of work for several months while he received counseling and while the incident was investigated. During our discovery phase, we found out the supervisor was also verbally abusive to other employees.
Fortunately, a co-worker witnessed the events and gave a written statement supporting our client’s version of the supervisor’s behavior.
The supervisor contended that our client misinterpreted the incident and claimed it was all intended as … a joke!
Intended as “a Joke?”
Not exactly “a joke” to an experienced operator just doing his job as he has for years. Not “a joke” to a young man diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of emotional trauma, verbal abuse and threats.
We filed suit in Philadelphia and made a claim under the Federal Employers Liability Act. The case was settled for a confidential five-figure sum; the supervisor was suspended and ordered to get retraining.
Here’s a summary of our claims on behalf of our client:
- As his employer, Amtrak was responsible for the supervisor’s outrageous actions.
- Amtrak was also responsible for not training him properly on how to discipline employees.
- Amtrak was liable for previous failures to discipline the supervisor when he was abusive to other employees.
- We are privileged to represent the family members of two young people who were killed in tragic events.
- A tractor trailer driver, high on marijuana, struck a vehicle and killed a young male passenger on I-295 in New Jersey.
- A pickup truck driver killed a young mother of two while she crossed the street in Downingtown.
- Sad, but true