CSX employee files FELA suit

Steve Gonzalez Jul. 10, 2007, 1:45am

A foreman for CSX Transportation filed a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) suit in Madison County Circuit Court July 3, alleging CSX failed to provide him a safe place to work.

Passed by the U.S. Congress in 1908, FELA was designed to protect and compensate railroaders who sustain injuries while working. Unlike state workers' compensation law, FELA requires the injured worker to prove that the railroad was "legally negligent," at least in part, in causing an injury.

Russell Aper claims he injured his lower back on Sept. 16, 2006, while lifting angle bars onto a truck in the St. Clair County yard.

He claims CSX failed to provide him with safe and suitable equipment in order to perform his duties, failed to provide suitable work methods, failed to inspect and discover unsafe working conditions, failed to warn of unsafe and dangerous working conditions and allowed unsafe and defective working conditions to exist.

Under FELA, injured workers can seek compensation for wage losses past and future, medical expenses and treatments, pain and suffering, and for partial or permanent disability. If an employee dies, survivors are entitled to recover damages which they have suffered because of the death.

After proving negligence, the injured worker is entitled to full compensation, which is usually many times greater than that provided by state workers' compensation benefits for non-railroaders which provide benefits on a no-fault basis

Aper claims his back injuries caused him to lose wages, incur medical expenses, experience great pain and suffering and a permanent disability.

Represented by Paul Passanante of St. Louis, Aper is seeking damages in excess of $50,000, plus costs.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron.

FELA allows a claim to be brought in federal or state court, whichever better suits the employee's convenience or purpose. The case may be filed in any city into which a railroad passes, or even where the railroad has no tracks but has a business office.

According to a published report by the Transportation Research Board (TRB), railroad management has argued that the FELA process imposes higher costs on the rail industry than those imposed by the workers' compensation system on its competitors -- primarily the trucking industry. That places railroads at a competitive disadvantage, the rail industry argues.

Rail union leaders contend that FELA is a necessary system to provide fair compensation and to offer incentives to industry to offer a safe working environment.

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