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Railroad Worker Injury Clash Draws U.S. Supreme Court Review

The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider tightening the standards for lawsuits by railroad- industry workers who blame their company for injuries they suffered on the job.

The justices today said they will hear a CSX Corp. unit’s bid to overturn a $184,250 award to a locomotive engineer who says the company is responsible for a hand injury he suffered during a day at the helm of a train.

The case centers on the test for determining whether a railroad’s negligence was the cause of an employee’s injury. In the CSX case, the federal judge overseeing the case told the Benton, Illinois, jury that the railroad was responsible if its negligence “played a part - no matter how small - in bringing about the injury.”

CSX contends workers should have to meet the more demanding standard, known as proximate cause, that applies in other types of personal-injury suits.

In upholding the award, a federal appeals court in Chicago said the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, which governs railroad-industry suits, lets workers recover damages without meeting the proximate cause test.

McBride’s injury occurred at the end of a day he spent training to deliver rail cars from one location to another near Evansville, Indiana. He says the process was made more difficult because he had to use wide-body locomotives, which had a different type of brake than smaller engines.

At trial, McBride testified that near the end of the day he put his hand on the brake and felt intense pain. He says he later underwent two surgeries and physical therapy.

The case is CSX Transportation v. McBride, 10-235.

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