Appeals Court Upholds $7.5 Verdict Against CSX Transportation in FELA Case

March 14, 2006

The North Carolina Court of Appeals unanimously upheld a $7.5 verdict on behalf of a retired CSX railroad employee who filed a Federal Employers' Liability Act claim when he was diagnosed with mesothelioma two years into his retirement.

Ray Williams filed the lawsuit against his employer because the railroad frequently exposed him to asbestos and asbestos materials at work without adequately warning him of the dangers. Asbestos is the only confirmed cause of mesothelioma among U.S. workers.

Williams worked for CSX for almost 40 years and was constantly exposed to asbestos. In 2002, he contracted malignant pleural mesothelioma and had surgery to remove his entire lung. A second surgery was required to remove his stomach, which had traveled into his chest cavity. Chemotherapy didn't work and the cancer spread to his lymph nodes.

Since the railroad didn't provide its employees with workers' compensation, Williams had to file a FELA suit and prove the railroad's negligence resulted in his injuries. Williams died at the age of 61 during the trial appellate process. His wife Shirley Williams continued with the case.

Last week, the North Carolina jury found that CSX knew of the dangers of asbestos in the 1930s and was aware of the safety precautions that could have been taken to protect workers from asbestos dust, but didn't take action until nearly 40 years later. In addition, the jury found that CSX learned that asbestos caused lung cancer in the 1960s, but didn't take any measures to protect its employees. The railroad continued to use asbestos products in the 1990s.

Researchers say that more than 94 percent of mesothelioma cases in men are a result of workplace asbestos exposure. However, CSX denied Williams was exposed to the carcinogen during his employment and denied the lung cancer was due to asbestos dust. The jury found the railroad company negligent and liable for damages suffered by William's mesothelioma.

Judge B. Craig Ellis denied the defendant's motion for an appeal. In the Court of Appeals' opinion he wrote "the trial court found the amount of damages awarded by the jury was justified by the evidence," and the appellate court found no error in the verdict.

For more information on FELA lawsuits, please contact us to confer with a personal injury lawyer.

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