Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA)

Cotten Schmidt & Abbott, L.L.P. has defended claims brought against railroad companies under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) for years.

Separate and apart from the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, our Firm has defended railroad companies for years in lawsuits resulting from railroad operations, including derailments, crossing accidents, plant site accidents involving non-railroad employees, and environmental claims resulting from gaseous emissions and liquid spills occurring as a result of derailments or railcar structural failure, involving both implosions and explosions. The incidents giving rise to those claims have occurred from as far north as Chicago, Illinois, and southward to New Orleans, Louisiana.

As part of our work in the broad railroad defense area, our Firm has been called out on an emergency basis numerous times to investigate personal injuries, crossing accidents, derailments, and cargo emissions or releases.  We have learned to work closely with local enforcements and environmental agencies as we conduct our investigations.

Additionally, Larry Abbott of our office has actually “ridden the rails” between New Orleans and Chicago to learn and see first hand how railroad operations are conducted and what the companies’ employees do to make those operations work.

The following cases are among the many that have been tried resulting from railroad incidents:

  • A railroad worker was injured while working on a switch track inside a chemical plant in Memphis, Tennessee.  As a result of the incident, he lost his right leg.

The case was tried by Larry Abbott to a twelve (12) member jury.  Following an eight (8) day trial the jury returned a verdict in favor of our railroad client.

Most law firms do not have the working knowledge that was called for in our being able to successfully defend the company, particularly involving the severely traumatic and emotional injury resulting from the loss of the railroad employee’s leg at the site of the accident.

We were able to show that he was not utilizing a safe procedure while working on the switch track and were only able to do so because of Mr. Abbott’s familiarity with how the particular operation should have been conducted by the employee.

  • Larry Abbott successfully tried a railroad triple fatality crossing accident case before Judge Mary Hotard Becnel in St. John the Baptist Parish.

Having been involved with numerous crossing accidents, including fatalities, helped Mr. Abbott prove to Judge Becnel that the liability for the incident rested with the automobile driver and the Louisiana Department of Transportation (LDOT). The plaintiffs really focused in attempting to prove liability against our railroad client because of the massive destruction caused to the automobile in question by the moving train.

Nevertheless, Mr. Abbott was successful in deflecting the emotion of the physical nature of the collision by establishing fault on the part of the automobile driver and the Louisiana Department of Transporation.

  • Mr. Abbott handled a matter tried to a twelve (12) person jury in Hinds County (Jackson), Mississippi.  Although there were literally thousands of plaintiffs, the case was tried by the opposition in behalf of nine (9) selected plaintiffs since Mississippi does not allow for class actions.

After a six (6) week trial, our Firm was able to establish fault, resulting in the toxic emission exposure in question, on the part of the plant where the tank car in question imploded.The jury found liability on the part of three (3) defendants but not our firm’s railroad client.

In the course of handling so many of these cases, Cotten Schmidt & Abbott, L.L.P. has developed an expertise in the operation modes of railroads, particularly what their employees are expected to do or avoid and how they are to function properly in their defined job responsibilities, including the actual operation of the train itself. That expertise has developed, in part, again from actually “riding the rails” to learn firsthand what railroad employees experience and should do in real time situations.

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