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VICTIMS OF DIESEL EXPOSURES

Former Railroad Carman and Signalman with Squamous Cell Neck Cancer

Published on August 21st, 2020 by Andrew L. Hughes

A 68-year-old plaintiff brought a FELA action against Consolidated Rail Corporation and its successor Norfolk Southern Railway Company after he was diagnosed with metastatic carcinoma of the cervical lymph nodes (neck cancer). He worked as a signal maintainer and carman from 1976 until 2012 in and around Elkhart, Indiana. The plaintiff alleged that during his 36 years of employment with the railroads, he was exposed to toxic chemicals such as diesel exhaust, benzene, and asbestos. He specifically alleged asbestos exposures via the insulation in the signal cabinets and pipe covering in many of the old railroad buildings.

In 2014, the plaintiff was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma of the cervical lymph nodes after having an enlarged mass in his neck. He received chemo-radiation treatment and went into remission. He alleged that the defendants failed to provide a safe workplace, failed to minimize exposure to dangerous materials by not providing proper protection or using methods to reduce exposure, failed to test employees for effects of exposures, and failed to warn him about potential dangers.

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The jury found that the defendants were negligent for failing to provide a safe workplace and that this negligence in some degree caused the plaintiff’s cancer. Defendants argued that the cause of his cancer was his HPV and smoking history, however, the jury still found the defendants 65% responsible. The jury found for the plaintiff and awarded him $1.5 million in gross damages which was reduced to $975,000 as a result of the plaintiff’s contributory negligence (primarily his smoking history).

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