$1.5 Million Joint FELA/FRSA Whistleblower Settlement
Special acknowledgement to John Kujawski of Kujawski Marcus, L.L.C, from O’Fallon, Illinois who associated our firm as Co-counsel.
This civil action arose under the provisions of the Federal Employer’s Liability Act [“FELA”], 45 U.S.C. § 51, et seq. Under FELA, the railroad has a non-delegable duty to provide its employees with a reasonably safe place to work. When an employee is stricken with a sudden illness on the job rendering them helpless to secure aid on their own, the railroad must help the employee once it is aware of the need.
Further, under the whistleblower provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act [“FRSA”], 49 U.S.C. § 20109, the railroad possess a similar duty to provide its employees with prompt and immediate medical attention. Pursuant to federal law, a railroad carrier, including its employees, may not deny, delay, or interfere with the medical or first aid treatment of an employee who is injured during the course of employment.
On February 2, 2014, Plaintiff, then age 29, reported to work as a freight conductor in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For several years, Plaintiff had been diagnosed and treated for high blood pressure and hypertensive disorder. This medical condition was known to the railroad throughout Plaintiff’s employment with the company through the railroad’s periodic medical screening protocols. On the day in question, Plaintiff reported to his fellow workers his head was hurting and he felt lightheaded. While walking to the yard office, Plaintiff’s engineer observed the Plaintiff holding his head, slumping, and mumbling. Plaintiff began stumbling to the wrong building, so the engineer grabbed him with both hands to help him walk.
Once in the office, the engineer immediately reported to the yardmaster that something was seriously wrong with Plaintiff. The yardmaster then called his immediate supervisor, the railroad trainmaster, to notify her of Plaintiff’s condition. Multiple witnesses reported that Plaintiff could not walk or talk, and he was completely disoriented and dazed. At that point, the railroad had every reason to know that Plaintiff was in need of immediate medical attention because he was stumbling, slumping, dazed, mumbling, and falling out of consciousness. In fact, another of Plaintiff’s fellow workers, a conductor, explicitly told the yardmaster to call 911. However, the railroad refused this instruction in order to wait until the trainmaster arrived on scene. After a long period of time during which Plaintiff’s condition continued to severely deteriorate, the trainmaster finally drove the Plaintiff to the hospital after refusing to call an ambulance or an emergency medical team.
This delay in medical treatment was a direct cause, in whole or in part, of Plaintiff’s brain hemorrhage and resulting brain damage. The railroad’s refusal to administer first aid or call an ambulance caused a buildup of intracranial pressure, which caused a brain hemorrhage. Consequently, Plaintiff sustained brain damage and is now unable to continue in his railroad career.
Under the provisions of FELA and the FRSA, the railroad failed to provide immediate medical treatment to the Plaintiff when he needed it most. Plaintiff sought past and future lost wages and general damages under FELA. In addition, Plaintiff was entitled to the same compensatory damages under the whistleblower provisions of the FRSA, plus attorney’s fees, litigation costs, and an equitable sum in punitive damages due to the railroad’s willful and wanton refusal to provide prompt medical treatment to Plaintiff.
Just before trial, the case settled for $1,500,000.00.