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Chapter 29: Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA)

Author’s Note: The Federal Employers’ Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. §51, et seq., applies to employees of railroad companies engaged in interstate commerce who are injured on the job. Unlike workers’ compensation, claims under FELA are fault-based. Federal law applies, and many of the cases are filed in federal court. However, FELA cases are occasionally filed in state court, and thus we include a single section to give Tennessee lawyers the basic law applicable to the claims.

§29.1 Generally – Liability

The Case: Mills v. CSX , 300 S.W.3d 627 (Tenn. 2009).

The Basic Facts: Mills claimed that he was injured on his job as a worker for the defendant railroad. Defendant filed a motion for summary judgment on several points. The decision is centered on whether Defendant met its burden as the movant for summary judgment.

The Bottom Line:

  • "A plaintiff may bring an FELA action in either federal or state court. While federal substantive law always controls FELA claims, claims brought in state courts 'are subject to state procedural rules.'" 300 S.W.3d at 631 (citations omitted).

  • "An FELA claim has four elements, requiring that: (1) the employee was injured in the scope of employment; (2) the employee's employment was in furtherance of the railroad's interstate transportation business; (3) the railroad was negligent; and (4) the railroad's negligence 'played some part in causing the injury for which [the employee] seeks compensation under FELA.'" Id. (citation omitted).

  • "In an FELA claim, the scope of employment includes both actual work and acts that are necessarily incidental to actual work. Baker v. Balt. & Ohio R.R. Co., 502 F.2d 638, 642 (6th Cir. 1974). Acts incidental to actual work include 'coming to and leaving work while on the employer's premises and resting while on duty.'" Id. at 632 (citations omitted).

  • "An FELA claimant must prove the common law elements of negligence. 'Under FELA, a railroad has a duty to provide its employees with a reasonably safe workplace.' CSX concedes that under the FELA it has a non-delegable duty to its employees to provide a reasonably safe workplace even when the duty requires the railroad to cross onto a third party's premises over which the railroad has no control. To prove a breach of duty under the FELA, an employee must show that the railroad 'knew, or by the exercise of due care should have known' that prevalent standards of conduct were inadequate to protect [the employee] and similarly situated employees.'" Id. at 633 (citations omitted).

  • "[Under the causation element] the FELA, this element requires the claimant to prove that the employer's negligence 'played any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury . . . for which damages are sought.'" Id. at 634 (citation omitted).

After an accident, many injury victims and their families want more information on the accident and their legal rights. Consequently, many of them have found their way to these pages. While we are happy you are here, please understand Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law was written to be a quick, invaluable reference for Tennessee tort lawyers. While the book provides the leading case for more than 300 tort law subjects and thousands of related case citations, it is not a substitute for personalized legal advice from a qualified lawyer.

Rather than researching these legal issues alone, we urge you to contact one of our award-winning lawyers who can sit down with you, review your case, answer your questions and clearly explain your rights and your options in a no-cost, no-obligation consultation. Our experienced attorneys handle all personal injury and wrongful death cases on a contingency basis, so we only get paid if we win. If for any reason you are unable to come to our office, we will gladly come to you.

To schedule an appointment, contact us online or call us at 615-742-4880 or toll-free at 866-812-8787.



The foregoing is an excerpt from Day on Torts: Leading Cases in Tennessee Tort Law, published by John A. Day, Civil Trial Specialist, Fellow in the American College of Trial Lawyers, recipient of Best Lawyers in America recognition, Martindale-Hubbell AV® Preeminent™ rated attorney, and Top 100 Tennessee Mid-South Super Lawyers designee. Read John’s full bio here.

To order a copy of the book, visit www.dayontortsbook.com. John also blogs regularly on key issues for tort lawyers. To subscribe to the Day on Torts blog, visit www.dayontorts.com.

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