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CSX Transportation V. McBride Ruling

On June 23, 2011, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the FELA and the rights of railroad workers nationwide, in affirming Bob Marcus’s $275,000.00 verdict in CSX Transportation v. McBride. Marking a major victory for the railroad workers, a historically pro-business Supreme Court ruled that railroads are liable for injuries to its employees caused “in whole or in part” from the railroad’s negligence.

Bob Marcus represented Bob McBride, a locomotive engineer for CSX, who was awarded $275,000.00 for injuring his hand due to CSX’s negligence. McBride alleged that CSX negligently (1) required him to use unsafe switching equipment and (2) failed to train him to operate that equipment. CSX first appealed the verdict to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Seventh Circuit upheld the verdict and issued a great opinion in support of the FELA.

The Supreme Court granted review of the case to determine the proper standard of causation in a FELA case. Knowing that this case represented a national attack on FELA, he retained David Frederick, one of the country’s top legal specialists in Supreme Court arguments, to argue on behalf of McBride. We effectively and persuasively rebuffed CSX’s attack on the FELA and argued that an “in whole or in part” causation standard applies.

Writing for the majority, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg rejected CSX’s argument, noting “we see no good reason to tamper with an instruction tied to FELA’s text, long employed by lower courts and hardly shown to be unfair or unworkable … Juries in such cases are properly instructed that a defendant railroad caused or contributed to a railroad worker’s injury if [the railroad’s] negligence played a part — no matter how small — in bringing about the injury … That indeed is the test Congress prescribed for proximate cause in FELA cases.”

McBride is a landmark decision and will have a great impact on FELA litigation. Not only did McBride explicitly approve the longstanding FELA “in whole or in part” causation instruction, but it also affirmed two jury instruction phrases: that the railroad is liable when its negligence played “a part — no matter how small” and “any part, even the slightest in producing the injury.” This is a major victory for railroad workers — this language has never been explicitly approved by the Supreme Court, until McBride. States are now compelled to follow the mandate of the McBride decision in amending their respective pattern FELA instructions.

The Supreme Court’s historic ruling in CSX Transportation v. McBride reinforces this landmark worker protection statute for future generations. For more information about how FELA can protect injured railroad workers, contact The Gori Law Firm by calling toll-free 888-362-6890 or by sending us an email.

From our offices in Edwardsville, Illinois, our attorneys represent injured workers nationwide.