Union Pacific sued by maintenance employee

By Steve Gonzalez | Jun 25, 2008

A maintenance of way employee for Union Pacific Railroad filed a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) suit in Madison County Circuit Court June 18, alleging the railroad failed to provide him a safe place to work during his career causing him to develop repetitive trauma injuries.

Thomas E. Ferguson alleges during the course of his employment with Union Pacific he was caused to develop repetitive trauma injuries to his shoulders, arms, elbows, wrists, hands, knees and back which caused him to be severely and permanently injured.

He claims because of the nature of his injuries, he suffered great physical and mental pain and anguish, and alleges he could suffer those symptoms for the remainder of his life.

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.

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

Ferguson also 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.

Represented by Robert Schmieder of Pratt & Tobin in East Alton, Ferguson is seeking damages in excess of $50,000, plus costs of the suit.

The case has been assigned to Circuit Judge Andy Matoesian.

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.

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