In 1976, Francis Battaglia went to work as a brakeman for Consolidated Rail Corp, better known as Conrail. Though he was furloughed between 1979 and 1988, Battaglia returned to Conrail as a brakeman and conductor, then later a locomotive engineer. He worked as an engineer from 1993 to 2007, when he was forced to take a medical leave because of his asthma diagnosis.
Testimony revealed that Battaglia was exposed to diesel exhaust on a continuous basis, because it would infiltrate the locomotive cabs through holes in the floor, cracks in improperly sealed windows and doors, and through the electrical compartment. Battaglia had complained about the diesel exhaust inside the locomotives to his employer, but the repairs (to the extent they were made) were ineffective in solving the problem. At some point, Battaglia started experiencing respiratory distress, and his pulmonologist diagnosed him with asthma. He was advised to retire from the railroad to prevent further complications. He thus incurred lost wages as result of having to retire early.
Battaglia brought suit against Conrail in 2005 under the Federal Employees Liability Act (FELA) and the Locomotive Inspection Act, alleging that the railroad negligently caused the conditions that contributed to his asthma diagnosis.
Battaglia’s doctor noted that Battaglia’s exposure to diesel exhaust was the cause of his asthma. Battaglia filed a motion for partial summary judgment on liability and the Court ruled that Battaglia had established that the railroad’s negligence contributed to his asthma.
As part of his case, Battaglia made a claim under the Locomotive Inspection Act, a law that holds the railroad strictly liable for the claim if the jury finds a violation. The appellate court found that the Locomotive Inspection Act requires that a locomotive’s diesel exhaust be released “entirely outside of the cab.” Battaglia and his co-workers testified that there was in fact diesel exhaust inside the cabs. Thus, the court found that Conrail was in violation of the Locomotive Inspection Act.
While Battaglia’s occupational illness may not have been life-threatening, he was awarded $2.6 million from the jury based largely on his lost wages and benefits resulting from his early retirement.
This case illustrates the importance of co-worker testimony and pleading the appropriate claims, including the Locomotive Inspection Act violation. In addition, while pain and suffering is often a significant component of damages in most railroad cancer cases, this case shows that economic damages (lost wages etc.) can result in sizable verdicts.
Hughes Law Offices is providing this case history to inform visitors about actual case fact patterns and rulings. Unless specifically noted, the cases summarized herein were not handled by attorneys at Hughes Law Offices. If your railroad career was shortened by an asthma diagnosis, call 312-877-5588 and speak with an attorney today.