U.S. Supreme Court: FELA Remains Unchanged

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RR Efforts to change FELA causation standard rejected; Yaeger, Jungbauer, & Barczak, PLC lawyers file support brief with Supreme Court.

Railroad workers and FELA attorneys scored a major victory in the railroad industry’s relentless attack on FELA recently when the United States Supreme Court released its opinion in CSX v. McBride – 10-235 (2011). While groups supporting both the railroad industry and injured workers submitted several written briefs, the only brief referenced in the opinion is the one penned by Yaeger, Jungbauer, & Barczak attorneys on behalf of the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys. Once again, the law firm of Yaeger, Jungbauer, & Barczak was instrumental in defending the rights of the country’s railroad workers.

Since Congress enacted FELA in 1908, courts have interpreted the statute’s language as requiring a lower standard of proving causation. This interpretation has become a keystone of FELA cases and makes it easier for injured railroad workers to recover damages than litigants do in traditional cases. Because it eases the path of recovery, the railroad industry has been trying to change this standard for more than fifty years. In one of the most important FELA decisions in the last century, the United States Supreme Court held that the liberal causation standard used in FELA actions would not be changed to a stricter causation standard advocated by CSX and all major railroads. This is a huge win for all railroad workers.

CSX and the Association of American Railroads argued that the Supreme Court should change the causation standard used in FELA cases from “causation in whole or in part” to the more restrictive “proximate causation” standard used in many other legal actions. If CSX and the railroad industry had been successful, all injured railroad workers and their families, as well as widows and families of railroad workers killed on the job, would have had a more difficult task in obtaining just compensation in FELA cases.

In an effort to counter the power and influence of the AAR and its Railroad Members, the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys, (ARLA), decided it would file its own amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court in this important FELA case.

ARLA is a national organization of Attorneys who represent railroad workers from every rail union in the country. The ARLA Board of Governors unanimously voted to ask Bill Jungbauer and Joe Sayler of Yaeger, Jungbauer & Barczak to represent the interests of all ARLA attorneys in submitting an Amicus Curiae Brief to the Supreme Court in this case. Jungbauer is a Member of the Bar of the U.S. Supreme Court and was Counsel of Record on behalf of ARLA in the case. Joe Sayler was instrumental in writing and rewriting the ARLA Brief.

One of the major focuses of ARLA’s brief was highlighting the reliance courts and injured workers have placed on the Supreme Court’s past decisions interpreting FELA as having a relaxed causation standard. This included outlining the major impact deviating from the current standard would have on railroad workers across the country. Justice Ginsburg’s opinion closely follows the template laid out in ARLA’s brief advocating that the court follow its past decisions and showing that courts across the country closely adhere to the standard. Justice Ginsburg specifically references the ARLA brief in her opinion. Further cementing the importance of the brief is the fact that none of the other amicus briefs are referenced by name anywhere in the opinion.

This is not the first time that Bill Jungbauer has been called upon to represent the interests of Railroad workers in the Supreme Court. Jungbauer represented the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers in filing its Amicus Curiae Brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in the important FELA case of Norfolk Southern v. Ayers - 01-963 (2003), which turned out to be another huge victory for all railroad workers and a devastating defeat for Rail Carriers.

A copy of the Decision of the Supreme Court in this case can be found at http://www.yjblaw.com/courtdec.pdf. A copy of the amicus brief on behalf of ARLA can be found at http://www.yjblaw.com/brief.pdf.

Jungbauer, Sayler and the firm of Yaeger, Jungbauer & Barczak donated all of their time, effort, and expense to researching the brief, discussing the issues of the case with numerous lawyers in the firm and around the country, writing and rewriting the brief, and finally submitting the brief to the Supreme Court.    

Yaeger, Jungbauer & Barczak has been the law firm injured people, railroaders and their families turn to for help at some of the most difficult times of their lives for more than 75 years. The firm has earned a national reputation for success in their representation of railroad workers injured on the job and seeking compensation under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act. For more information about the firm, please go to http://www.yjblaw.com or call the firm at (800) 435-7888.

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