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).