Loading ...
Sorry, an error occurred while loading the content.

The Rogak Report: 30 September 2004 ** Railroads - FELA - Assault **

Expand Messages
  • Lawrence Rogak
    TRAIN CONDUCTOR, ASSAULTED BY PASSENGER, FAILS TO ESTABLISH THAT RAILROAD WAS NEGLIGENT; FELA CLAIM FAILS Okeke v. The Long Island Railroad Company, NYLJ
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 30, 2004
    • 0 Attachment
      TRAIN CONDUCTOR, ASSAULTED BY PASSENGER, FAILS TO ESTABLISH THAT
      RAILROAD WAS NEGLIGENT; FELA CLAIM FAILS

      Okeke v. The Long Island Railroad Company, NYLJ 9/30/04 (USDC - SDNY)
      (COTE, j.)

      Plaintiff, a train conductor, filed this action against the Long
      Island Railroad Company pursuant to the Federal Employer's Liability
      Act("FELA"), for damages for injuries he suffered when he was
      assaulted by unruly passengers while on duty, alleging that the
      LIRR's failure to maintain safe working conditions contributed to the
      incident. The LIRR filed third-party complaints against the two
      assailants involved in the incident, and both appeared. They were not
      otherwise involved in the litigation. Following the close of
      discovery, the LIRR moved for summary judgment on the ground that
      Okeke failed to establish any negligence on the part of his employer.

      According to the undisputed facts, plaintiff was the conductor on a
      train running from Pennsylvania Station to Port Washington. When he
      attempted to collect train fare from a teenage couple, they began to
      argue and became unruly. Plaintiff told them to get off the train at
      the next station. After the couple exited the train, one of them
      punched plaintiff through the conductor's window and the other spit
      in plaintiff's face. Plaintiff dropped his keys on the platform and
      was forced to exit the train to retrieve them. On the platform,
      plaintiff was assaulted by the couple. An off-duty police officer who
      came to his aid was also assaulted, and additional police officers
      were summoned to the scene. Plaintiff sustained a knee injury that
      required arthroscopic surgery and ongoing care, and missed eighty
      days of work.

      The Court stated, first, that FELA is "a broad remedial statute whose
      objective is to provide a federal remedy for railroad workers who
      suffer personal injuries as a result of the negligence of their
      employer" and is to be "liberally construed" to achieve that
      objective. A relaxed standard for negligence and causation applies to
      cases brought pursuant to FELA. "An employer breaches its duty under
      FELA if it knew or should have known of a potential hazard in the
      workplace, and yet failed to exercise reasonable care to inform and
      protect its employees." The test is whether the evidence
      supports "the conclusion that employer negligence played any part,
      even the slightest, in producing the injury."

      In this case, "The plaintiff has offered no evidence that the LIRR
      knew or should have known prior to August 25, 2000, that Okeke was at
      risk of assault from passengers on the train running between
      Pennsylvania Station and Port Washington. Plaintiff's only exhibit in
      opposition to the LIRR's motion is a print-out from an internet site
      listing Bureau of Transportation statistics, including aggravated
      assault on commuter rails for the year 2000. These statistics, which
      appear national in scope, do not provide evidence that the LIRR was
      or should have been aware that Okeke was at risk. Plaintiff also
      argues that a 2002 amendment to the New York Penal Law classifying
      intentional injury to a train conductor as second-degree assault,
      N.Y. Penal Law ยง120.05(11), evidences that the LIRR was or should
      have been aware that Okeke was in danger. The plaintiff has not shown
      that this amendment, passed two years after Okeke's injury, is
      relevant to the issue in this action. Even under the liberal standard
      applied to FELA actions, Okeke has failed to raise an issue of fact
      as to the LIRR's negligence."

      Plaintiff's other evidence concerning assaults on train conductors
      all involved incidents which occurred after his, and therefore were
      rejected as "notice" to the LIRR. As a result, summary judgment was
      granted to the railroad.
    Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.