FELA suit: Rough caboose ride causes railroader's injury

Steve Gonzalez Mar. 17, 2008, 12:15am

A Marion man filed a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) complaint against Illinois Central Railroad in United States District Court March 13, alleging he sustained permanent injuries to his left arm when he was exposed to a violent jerk while riding on a caboose on March 20, 2005.

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.

Van A. Cobb claims he was on the caboose near Metropolis, when "in the course of a shoving movement after picking up 100 empty coal cars from the Cook Coal Terminal" the train went into an emergency brake application violently jerking him off his feet.

According to the complaint, Cobb was riding the end platform of the caboose to protect the leading end of the shove movement as the train shoved along the mainline track.

He claims when he was jerked off his feet he was holding on to a "grabiron" to keep from falling off the train causing his body to twist awkwardly from the force of the sudden, severe and unexpected slack action generated by the emergency brake application.

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.

Cobb claims Illinois Central failed to provide him a reasonably safe place to work, failed to provide safe conditions to work, failed to provide adequate assistance and failed to provide safe tools and equipment.

He claims his injuries have caused him to sustain pain, suffering, mental anguish, lost wages and medical expenses.

Represented by F. Tucker Burge of Birmingham, Ala., Cobb is seeking a judgment to fully and fairly compensate him in excess of $75,000, plus costs.

The case has been assigned to District Judge J. Phil Gilbert in Benton.

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