FELA Cases

CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Thurston Hensley, 2009 WL 1506680 (U.S. June 1, 2009)

  • FELA case involving a CSX Transportation, Inc. employee seeking compensation for asbestosis and emotional pain and suffering that came from a fear of developing cancer. The U.S. Supreme Court relied heavily on a previous case, Norfolk & Western R. Co. v Ayers (538 U.S. 135) in which Ayers held that a plaintiff must prove a “genuine and serious” fear of developing lung cancer in the future in order to recover compensation for his/her emotional damages. The Hensley opinion demonstrates the Supreme Court’s conservativeness and its determination to exclude injured workers from recovering damages.

Ratliff v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co, Civil Action No. 05-C-423
State of West Virginia (March 12, 2009)

  • The West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that railroad workers who sign “total and absolute” releases of claims against their employers when accepting early retirement do not sign away injury claims that are allowed by FELA. The ruling came on an appeal by the widow of Sparrell Ratliff, former career Norfolk and Western Railway employee who died as the result of his asbestos exposure in 2005. The Justices reversed statewide asbestos judge Arthur Recht of Wheeling, who ruled in 2007 that Ratliff released all claims when he accepted early retirement. Judge Recht chose to make his ruling based on the intent of the two parties that entered into the early retirement agreement. Norfolk Southern advised Raitliff that it would require total and absolute release of any claims arising from the employment relationship. Raitliff applied to retire and Norfolk Southern approved. He signed a release that identified the $35,000 as consideration for the release. In the opinion overturning Judge Recht’s decision Justice Robin Davis wrote that the Federal Employer's Liability Act of 1908 voids any contract that exempts a common carrier from liability for injury. "In enacting FELA, it was Congress' intention that it be a broad, remedial statute, and, as such, should be given a liberal construction by courts," Davis wrote. She quoted an Ohio decision that, "Congress intended to remove the ability of employees to sell off their FELA rights in exchange for short term gains as well as the ability of employers to pressure or defraud their employees into signing away those same rights."

Norfolk & Western Ry Co. v. Ayers, 538 U.S. 135, 123 S.Ct. 1210, 155 L.Ed. 2d 261 (2003)

  • FELA case involving six former employees of the N&W seeking compensation for asbestosis and fear of cancer. 1998 verdict for all plaintiffs in the Circuit Court of Kanwha County, West Virginia. State Supreme Court denied railroad's petition for appeal. United States Supreme Court granted railroad's petition for certiorari, but affirmed judgments in favor of plaintiffs, holding that:  (a) plaintiffs suffering from asbestosis could recover damages for fear of developing cancer and (b) liability of railroad was not reduced by plaintiffs' exposure to asbestos on non-railroad jobs.

Norfolk & Western Railway Co. v. Dye, 533 U.S. 950, 121 S.Ct. 2593, 150 L.Ed.2d 752 (2001) (Mem.).

  • FELA case involving five former N&W employees seeking to recover claims for asbestosis and fear of cancer.  1998 verdict for all plaintiffs in the Circuit Court of Mingo County, West Virginia. 

Lamphere v. Consolidated Rail Corp., 210 W.Va. 303, 557 S.E.2d 357 (2001).

Non-Railroad Asbestos Cases

  • Abbott v. Owens-Corning Fiberglas Corp.,
    191 W.Va. 198, 444 S.E.2d 285 (1994)
  • State ex rel. Appalachian Power Co. v. MacQueen,
    198 W.Va. 1, 479 S.E.2d 300 (W.Va., No. 14, 1996) (No. 23402)
  • State ex rel. Allman v. MacQueen,
    203 W.Va. 726, 551 S.E.2d 369 (2001)
  • State ex rel. Mobil Corporation v. Gaughan,
    63 S.E.2d 419 (2002)

For more information on these FELA cases, please contact a FELA attorney.