Railway worker files FELA lawsuit over noise exposure

Steve Gonzalez Jul. 22, 2008, 9:00am

Alton & Southern Railway in East St. Louis

A 13 year veteran with Alton & Southern Railway has filed a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) complaint, alleging he was exposed to noise pollution.

In papers filed in Madison County Circuit Court on July 16, Kevin Wengert claims since he began working as a trackman in 1995, he has been subjected to noise pollution which has permanently injured his ears and auditory system.

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.

Wengert claims Alton & Southern failed to provide him a safe place to work, failed to provide safe methods of work, failed to provide sufficient manpower and failed to provide safe tools and equipment.

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.

Wengert claims that his various injuries have and will continue to cause him to suffer great pain and mental anguish, lost wages and medical expenses.

He is seeking damages in excess of $50,000, plus costs.

Attorney Gregory Tobin of East Alton is representing Wengert.

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.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron.

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