THE ACADEMY OF RAIL LABOR ATTORNEYS: Protecting the FELA Through Experienced Legal Counsel

Published: June 24, 2021

Over the past few years, some law firms who handle mass torts and advertise on a national scale through television and social media have focused their mass marketing on active and retired railroaders who have been afflicted with various forms of cancer and repetitive trauma orthopedic injuries. These firms represent to the public that they are “FELA specialists” with years of experience litigating against the rail industry and, not surprisingly, have generated a substantial client base. Numerous claims have been filed in various courts around the country with an underlying strategy of trying to overwhelm various railroads to the point of forcing settlement of all claims.

But, in reality, the attorneys handling these claims are neither members of ARLA nor railroad union Designated Legal Counsel. A path of destruction has ensued as the railroads have chosen fight over flight in addressing this onslaught of FELA claims. Just a few case examples include:

Holmes v. Union Pacific Railroad, Case No. SC98673 (Mo. 2021) – The Missouri Supreme Court affirmed dismissal of wrongful death FELA cancer case for counsel’s “carelessness, inattention, and deliberate disregard” in failing to timely appoint a personal representative of decedent’s estate as required under the FELA.

Wilant v. BNSF Ry. Co., Case No. N17C-10-365 (Del. Super. 2020) – FELA bladder cancer case dismissed on summary judgment following Daubert ruling striking plaintiff’s general medical causation expert.

Harder v. Union Pacific Railroad, Case No. 8:18-cv-58 (D. Neb. 2020) – Machinist diagnosed with NHL, FELA case dismissed on summary judgment following Daubert ruling striking plaintiff’s medical causation expert.

Kosin v. Union Pacific Railroad, Case No. 4:17-cv-2435 (E.D. Mo. 2019) – FELA bladder, lung and prostate cancer case dismissed on summary judgment as time-barred under FELA 3-year statute of limitations following decision by counsel to withdraw allegations that death was caused by exposures at the railroad.

Collins v. BNSF Ry. Co., Case No. 4:17-cv-3572 (S.D. Tx. 2019) – TY&E employee diagnosed with colon cancer, FELA case dismissed on summary judgment following Daubert ruling striking plaintiff’s industrial hygienist and medical causation experts.

York v. BNSF Ry. Co., Case No. 1:17-cv-1088 (D. Colo. 2019) – TY&E employee diagnosed with bladder cancer, FELA case dismissed on summary judgment following Daubert ruling striking plaintiff’s medical causation expert.

These cases all resulted in court losses for the plaintiffs, families not being made whole and moreover established negative precedents for future cases. The clients in the end sadly paid the price of these so-called FELA “experts” whose advertising presence dwarfed than experience in handling railroad-related cases.

If bringing a case against a carrier, the best and most effective choice is to engage a member of the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys or a union-endorsed Designated Legal Counsel. They have been vetted by rail labor organizations, have proven experience, follow strict codes of conduct and will commit to giving each and every FELA case the precise focus it deserves while fighting for the best outcome for clients.

A list of SMART-TD Designated Legal Counsel can be found here.
More information about the Academy of Rail Labor Attorneys.