Los Angeles, CA – June 27, 2011 – The Law Offices of Charles D. Naylor, a San Pedro-based maritime personal injury law firm, is proud to announce that the United States Supreme Court recently issued a historic decision (June 23, 2011) that will help maintain the rights of injured railway workers and injured seamen.
In a 5 to 4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a $275,000 jury verdict for Robert McBride, an injured railroad worker, and maintained the causation and liability language that allows an injured railway worker to seek damages from its employers under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). FELA is the federal law that addresses injured railroad workers who, like seamen, are not covered under state workers’ compensation laws. Established in 1908, FELA states that railroads are responsible for workers’ injuries resulting “in whole or in part” from the railroads negligence.
“Interestingly this was not a case about negligence. On appeal, the railroad’s negligence was conceded. The debate centered on the role the railroad’s negligence must play in causing the injury for it to be held liable,” said Charles D. Naylor, a maritime personal injury attorney who has been representing injured workers in the maritime trades for more than 35 years, including railway workers, seamen, longshore workers, commercial fishermen and cruise ship passengers and crew.
“For the past forty years, the Supreme Court and the lower courts have consistently held railroads responsible for injuries if their negligence played any part, no matter how small, in causing the injury. In McBride the railroad companies asked the U.S. Supreme Court to apply a much more restrictive causation test, making it more difficult for the railroads to be held responsible for their negligent conduct, thus reducing their legal and financial responsibilities to injured workers,” said Naylor.
Because of the significance of the legal issue in McBride for railroad workers, and the decision’s potential impact on maritime law, Charles D. Naylor helped co-author an Amicus Brief, on behalf of the American Association for Justice (AAJ) Admiralty Law Section, in support of FELA’s causation language. The brief was submitted to the U.S. Supreme Court to inform the Court of the implications it’s decision in McBride would have for maritime law, and the importance of the “in whole or part” causation standard for seamen.
The Supreme Court’s decision reaches far beyond the relatively small boarders that surround the railroad industry. FELA is incorporated as part of the Jones Act, the federal act that protects injured seamen. As such, the court’s decision sets a significant precedent for all pending and future Jones Act cases occurring anywhere in the world.
“Railway workers and seamen are excluded from all state and federal workers compensation programs. They have to sue, and prove negligence to get compensation that other workers receive automatically. If the Supreme Court had ruled in any other way, railway workers and seamen would have become the only class of workers in the United States without meaningful compensation when they are injured at work,” said Naylor. “Seamen and railroad workers play a vital role in international commerce and the health of our country’s economy. They also have some of the most dangerous jobs in the world. It’s important that we fight to maintain the laws that protect them from injury and that provide adequate and timely compensation when they are injured at work.”
Robert McBride, a locomotive engineer, injured his hand in 2004 when his employer, CSX Transportation, required him to operate a train that was not suited for switching, and failed to train him adequately to operate the equipment. As a result, McBride suffered a broken bone that required surgery. He was out of work for almost a year, and ultimately, sustained permanent loss of use of one of his hands.
At trial in 2008, an Illinois District Court jury was given the following instructions to determine the employer’s (the defendant’s) liability: “Defendant ‘caused or contributed to’ Plaintiff’s injury if Defendant’s negligence played a part—no matter how small—in bringing about the injury.”
The jury awarded McBride $275,000. CSX appealed and brought the case to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals. When the 7th Circuit upheld the jury verdict, CSX once again appealed, and took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court where it was heard before the high court in March.
About Law Offices of Charles D. Naylor
Since 1975, the Law Offices of Charles D. Naylor has been compassionately and aggressively representing injured workers from the maritime trades including seamen, longshore and marine construction workers, railway workers, commercial fishermen, recreational boaters, and cruise ship passengers and crew. With more than 100 years combined experience, our attorneys specialize in Maritime Personal Injury, Jones Act, Longshore & Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA), Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA, Defense Base Act (DBA) and Cruise Ship Injury.
In 2007, Charles D. Naylor obtained a $55.2 million jury verdict ($5.2M compensatory / $50M punitive) against the now bankrupt DaimlerChrysler for the wrongful death of a longshoreman. In 2009, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court ordered Chrysler to pay a $24 million settlement.
Charles D. Naylor received California Lawyer magazine’s prestigious CLAY Award in 2008, has an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell and has been recognized by Southern California Super Lawyers as one of the “top attorneys in Southern California” (2007- 2011).