An Arkansas railroad worker filed a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) suit in Madison County Circuit Court Jan. 14, alleging Union Pacific 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.

Billy Surratt claims that during his career at UP as a trackman in the maintenance of working all over the UP track system in Illinois, Missouri and Arkansas, he was required to make highly repetitive stressful back and lower extremity motions in his work activities.

Surratt alleges he was required to work with unsafe, heavy, awkward, vibrating and torquing equipment causing his back, knees and feet to become injured. He claims his injuries required medical treatment and possible fusion surgeries for herniated cervical and lumbar disks.

According to Surratt, in July 2007, the symptoms of his low back and knee injuries manifested to the point of disability after working in Wood River causing him to report his injuries to his employer.

Under FELA, injured workers can seek compensation for wage loss 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 for non-railroaders which provides benefits on a no-fault basis.

Surratt claims he has become liable for medical expenses he incurred and claims he has lost and will continue to suffer economic damages in lost wages.

He claims Union Pacific 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.

Surratt claims his various injuries have caused him to sustain pain, suffering and mental anguish. He also claims he will have to undergo medical treatment and painful tests.

Represented by Daniel Francis of St. Louis, Surratt is seeking damages in excess of $50,000, plus costs of the suit.

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