Widow blames Norfolk Southern for husband's cancer death

By Steve Gonzalez | Apr 25, 2005

A Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) suit was filed by the widow of a Norfolk Southern Railway worker who blames the railroad for her husband's cancer death.

Nancy Burns of Macon, Ill. claims that while employed by Norfolk Southern, her husband Richard was exposed to significant and dangerous concentrations of diesel fumes and other toxic substances which caused permanent lung injuries.

Burns is seeking damages in excess of $150,000, all costs of the suit plus losses of her husband’s wages and benefits.

She is represented by Michael Doran of Doran & Murphy of Buffalo New York and Gerard Schneller of St. Louis.

According to the complaint, filed in St. Clair County Circuit Court, Richard, a conductor, was unaware of the danger, effects and propensities of diesel fumes and other substances to which he was being exposed. He died Feb. 14, 2004, from bladder cancer.

“Throughout Richard’s employment, Norfolk knew or in the exercise of proper diligence, should have known of the presence of diesel fumes and other toxic substances," the complaint states.

Burns claims Norfolk Southern was negligent by failing to provide Richard with proper protective gear and it failed to warn Richard of the dangers posed by fumes.

"(Norfolk Southern) failed to warn of the dangers posed by the synergistic effect of toxic exposure and smoking, failing to test its workplace, and allowing unsafe practices to become standard practice," the suit claims.

She also claims Norfolk failed to:

  • Undertake proper medical exams and diagnostic studies to determine Richard’s exposure;
  • Test toxic substances prior to requiring employees to work with them; and
  • Comply with existing federal, state, and local statues and regulations pertaining to the presence of toxic substances and employee exposure.

    According to the complaint Burns suffered permanent injuries to his lungs and respiratory system, bladder cancer, severe and permanent injuries with pendant pain, mental anguish, dementia, torment, fear of cancer, loss of enjoyment of life, change of lifestyle, diminished mental capacity and medical expenses.

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