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FELA Cases Summarized By Accident Lawyer

This page within Virginia Tort Case Law is a compilation of cases reported by the Virginia Supreme Court and summarized by Brien Roche dealing with the topic of FELA and the related topic of personal injury. For more information on FELA issues see the pages on Wikipedia.


See Va. Code § 8.01-57 as to state law basis for recovery by railroad employees.

 See Va. Code § 65.2-101 stating that interstate carriers by rail are exempted from Workers’ Compensation Act.


2003 Norfolk & W. Ry. Co. v. Keeling, 265 Va. 228, 576 S.E.2d 452.

In this FELA case, plaintiff alleged employer negligent when its agents administered pulmonary test to plaintiff with blood pressure reading in excess of 200/110. Evidence was sufficient to create jury issue as to negligence of employer.

2001 Norfolk S. Ry. v. Bowles, 261 Va. 21, 539 S.E.2d 727.

In this FELA case, court concluded that opinion of expert in ergonomics analysis and vocational assessment that railroad failed to provide safe workplace was admissible. Ergonomics analysis performed by expert focused on employee’s task of compressing absorber while operating wheel truing machine and on basis of that analysis and review of other materials, expert formed his opinions that work task was not safe and that employer should have provided employee a mechanical device to perform task.

1999 Norfolk S. Ry. Co. v. Thomas, 258 Va. 516, 522 S.E.2d 620.

Issue on appeal was whether defendant was entitled to instruction on contributory negligence. The fact that employee may have been guilty of contributory negligence does not bar recovery for employer’s negligence, but damages shall be reduced by jury in proportion to amount of negligence attributable to employee. When there are reasonable alternatives to performing task in unsafe way, plaintiff must act with due care and will be presented based upon evidence that employee failed to follow a specific safety instruction reasonably imposed to protect employee from injury. In this case, jury should have been instructed on issue of contributory negligence.

1997 Gay v. Norfolk & W. Ry., 253 Va. 212, 483 S.E.2d 216

Federal courts apply discovery rule in FELA cases. Cause of action accrues when employee knew or should have known that he was injured and that injury was work-related. Employee’s mere suspicion of injury or its probable cause, standing alone, is not operative standard for determining when cause of action accrues. Court must consider degree of inquiry made by employee, number of possible causes of injury, whether medical advice indicated no causal connection, complexity of employee symptoms, expert knowledge of doctors consulted, existence of medically recognized causal link.

1997 Norfolk Southern Ry. v. Trimiew, 253 Va. 22, 480 S.E.2d 104.

Plaintiff alleges that he fell while alighting from cab of vehicle which ran along railroad track. Plaintiff alleges that stone alongside track was improperly maintained. Supreme Court held as a matter of law no negligence.

1996 Norfolk & W. Ry. v. Chittum, 251 Va. 408, 468 S.E.2d 877.

Plaintiff had pre-existing problems with right heel. Evidence showed that employer was negligent in allowing employee to work at task in question and that it was reasonably foreseeable that this would result in harm.

1996 Norfolk & W. Ry. v. Johnson, 251 Va. 37, 465 S.E.2d 800.

Jury entitled to find that plaintiff, prior to his employment by railway, had no problems with his hands or arms, that after working for several months he developed carpal tunnel syndrome due to grinder vibration, defendant had actual knowledge of industry opinion of relationship between these vibrations and carpal tunnel syndrome. As such, negligence, causation, and forseeability are established.

1994 Norfolk & W. Ry. v. Hodges, 248 Va. 254, 448 S.E.2d 592.

Plaintiff struck by heavy door apparently supported only by arm with gravity mechanism. This was unusual condition of which plaintiff was aware. As such he should have realized that gravity mechanism could not be relied upon to hold doors open. Jury issue presented as to contributory negligence.

1994 Norfolk & W. Ry. v. Hughes, 247 Va. 113, 439 S.E.2d 411.

Plaintiff injured while inspecting brakes on train at night. He tripped over crosstie. No evidence presented that employer knew or should have known of defective condition and as such no jury issue created. No evidence presented from which inference could be drawn about the condition of the cross-tie or the cause of that condition.

1981 Sabb v. Norfolk & P.B.L.R.R., 222 Va. 19, 278 S.E.2d 795.

FELA actions interpreted in light of U.S. Supreme Court decision and not common law negligence principles. Carrier cannot raise contributory negligence and assumption of risk as bars. Jury issue is presented if employer’s actions played even slightest part in causing injury.

1976 Chesapeake & O. Ry. v. Richmond, 217 Va. 258, 227 S.E.2d 707.

Railroad is liable to employee if his injuries were caused in whole or in part by railroad’s negligence. Contributory negligence is not defense, and only mitigates damages. Assumption of risk is not defense. Accident caused by sole negligence of employee.

1974 Seaboard Coast Line R.R. v. Ward, 214 Va. 543, 202 S.E.2d 877.

Railroad is liable to plaintiff under FELA if injuries were caused in whole or in part by railroad negligence. Comparative negligence rule applies and contributory negligence serves only to mitigate damages. If railroad is negligent, then plaintiff’s claim is barred only if his negligence was sole proximate cause.

1971 Norfolk & W. Ry. v. Keatley, 211 Va. 507, 178 S.E.2d 516.

Brakeman injured due to sudden stopping of train. Suit brought under FELA and Federal Safety Appliance Act.

1959 Virginia Ry. v. Calhoun, 200 Va. 908, 108 S.E.2d 239.

FELA provides that railroad is liable for injury resulting in whole or in part from its negligence or by reason of any defect or insufficiency due to its negligence in its appliances, machinery or other equipment. There is some question as to whether speculation, conjecture and possibilities will suffice to support jury verdict. Fraudulent obtaining of employment is defense that should be pled.

1951 Southern Ry. v. Mays, 192 Va. 68, 63 S.E.2d 720.

Assumption of risk is not available defense in such case. On other hand, carrier is not to be charged with those injuries which result from usual risks incident to employment on railroads that cannot be eliminated through carrier’s exercise of ordinary care.

1944 Bly v. Southern Ry., 183 Va. 162, 31 S.E.2d 564.

Plaintiff rear trainman fell off bridge. Although there was no clear showing why plaintiff fell off bridge, Supreme Court held that jury question was presented. Assumption of risk not applicable where injury resulted in whole or in part from negligence of carrier. Contributory negligence is not complete defense.

1943 Beamer v. Virginia Ry., 181 Va. 650, 26 S.E.2d 43.

FELA case.Assumption of risk not applicable where injury or death results from negligence of carrier.

1943 Wood Towing Corp. v. West, 181 Va. 151, 23 S.E.2d 789.

Plaintiff seaman injured as result of sudden movement of boat. Verdict for plaintiff upheld.

1943 Crosswhite v. Southern Ry., 181 Va. 40, 23 S.E.2d 777.

FELA case.Employee protected by act shall not be held guilty of contributory negligence or assumption of risk where violation by common carrier of any statute enacted for safety of employees contributed to injury.

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FELA Cases Summarized By Accident Lawyer

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