$1.6 million verdict for back injury in Montana FELA case

A former BNSF train conductor received a $1.6 million verdict from a Montana jury in a FELA suit he filed for a back injury he suffered while entering a locker room at a rail yard.  The claim was apparently based on the accumulation of snow and ice caused by snow melting on the roof of the locker room facility.This fact pattern is on which underlines the fact that FELA does not apply only to injuries which take place during work operations, but extends to all injuries sustained during the course of their employment.  Since work brought the injured conductor to the locker room, the railroad’s responsibility for providing a safe place to work to their employees followed them to the locker room.It also helps understand two ways in which FELA cases are different from ordinary work related injuries in Illinois:1.  If this man was not employed by the railroad, he would be eligible to pursue an Illinois worker’s compensation claim, which is a no-fault proceeding;2.  Liability claims for slip and fall cases in Illinois involving snow and ice applies the “natural accumulation” rule where there is no liability for property owners caused by falls on natural accumulations of snow and ice.  FELA cases do not draw that distinction.  If removing the snow and ice is required for railroads to meet its legal responsibility to provide a safe place to work as required by FELA, then that is what they must do, and they can be held liable for failing to do so.