Talk about timing. I was on trial in federal court last week in a FELA injury case. The Railroad, no doubt hoping the U.S. Supreme Court would eliminate the FELA’s long standing "even to the slightest degree" causation standard and replace it with the less favorable "proximate cause," had made a low ball offer and asked the Judge to charge the jury on the proximate cause standard. At 10:35 am on Thursday morning the Judge was ready to read his charge, but first turned to me and asked, "Mr. Goetsch, any word on the McBride Supreme Court decision?" I pulled out my IPhone and saw that only minutes before the Supreme Court had handed down the McBride decision upholding the FELA’s "even to the slightest degree" standard. I replied, "Judge, the FELA remains intact. No reason to change the usual charge." The jury was charged accordingly, and later returned a verdict five times more than the Railroad’s offer.
The purpose of the FELA is to promote safe railroad operations by allowing negligently injured workers to recover full jury damages. That’s why Teddy Roosevelt pushed the FELA through Congress 103 years ago, to give the railroads an economic incentive to be safe. Last week the future of the FELA hung in the balance, but now we can thank the Supreme Court for upholding the FELA and refusing to cripple what is the original rail safety law. Somewhere, Teddy Roosevelt is smiling a big toothy grin. For the full decision in CSX Transportation Inc. v. McBride, click here.