Railroad Accidents Timeline

Substantial legal history has helped shape the landscape of railroad accident lawsuits. Here are three major railroad lawsuits that have played a role in holding railroad companies responsible when they failed to provide proper care:

June 1984
: Two Burlington Northern coal trains collided in Denver, resulting in a deadly train accident, killing both engineers and a brake operator. Following the railroad accident, the Federal Railroad Administration initially blamed the engineers, claiming that alcohol consumption was the reason for the deadly train accident.

The FRA tests concluded that the men had high blood alcohol levels, but a second test showed that high heat during the accident caused the sugar in the railroad workers’ stomachs to be converted to alcohol. A dispatcher error later proved to be the cause of the deadly train accident. This showed that the railroad company was at partial fault, and the families of these men were compensated for their railroad injuries.

1998: Six former employees of the Norfolk & Western Railway filed suit in Kanawha County, West Virginia. They sought damages for toxic railroad exposure, resulting in lung cancer and fear of getting lung cancer. They argued that exposure to asbestos and other dusts on the job led to shortness of breath and other lung problems.

The case was complicated by the fact that all six men were long-time smokers. Nevertheless, the jury awarded almost $914,000 in damages to Freeman Ayers, $1.2 million to Doyle Johnson, $1 million each to Carl Butler and John T. Shirley, $900,000 to James Spangler and $800,000 to Clifford Vance.

March 2006: The North Carolina Court of Appeals upheld a court’s decision to award $7.5 million to a retired CSX railroad worker who was diagnosed with mesothelioma just two years after retiring. The plaintiff worked on the railroad for 40 years and was constantly exposed to asbestos.

Because the jury determined that CSX knew of the link between asbestos and lung cancer for decades but continued to allow its employees to work around the dangerous material, CSX compensated the plaintiff for his train-related injury.

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