Railroad Worker Personal Injury Lawsuits and Cancer Risks

Lawyers Investigate Lawsuits on Behalf of Railroad Workers who Developed Cancer

Parker Waichman LLP is investigating potential personal injury lawsuits on behalf of railroad workers who developed cancer, allegedly due to occupational hazards and exposure to certain toxic substances. The firm continues to offer free legal consultations to individuals with questions about filing a railroad worker personal injury lawsuit.

Due to their profession, railroad workers may have greater exposure to substances that increase the risk of cancer. This includes benzene, creosote and asbestos. Personal injury attorneys are investigating railroad worker occupational hazard lawsuits involving:

• Mesothelioma
• Leukemia and other blood cancers
• Multiple myeloma
• Bladder cancer
• Colon Cancer
• Lung Cancer
• Kidney Cancer
• Bone Cancer

Other cancers and health problems may also be associated with railroad worker occupational hazards.

In 1908, Congress passed the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). This law allows railroad workers to file a lawsuit if they became injured due to their occupation. Through a jury trial, these individuals can seek damages for pain, suffering and emotional distress. Filing a lawsuit under FELA is different from receiving benefits through workers’ compensation, which is provided through the employer.

Benzene is substance that is harmful to humans when inhaled or absorbed through the skin. It is a crude oil product that has been used to make substances such as plastics, resins, nylons and synthetic fibers. Lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides may also contain benzene.

Exposure to benzene has been linked to an increased risk of acute myeloid leukemia (AML). There is also evidence suggesting that benzene is associated with other cancers (although the evidence is weaker) including: childhood leukemia (particularly AML), acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL), chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CL), multiple myeloma and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Creosote is a wood preservative. According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry (ATSDR) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), individuals may be exposed to creosote through creosote-treated wood in railroad tracks, building fences, bridges, or telephone poles. Coal tar creosote is classified as probably carcinogenic to humans by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
According to ATSDR, long-term exposure to creosote can cause skin cancer and cancer of the scrotum.

Railroad workers may also be exposed to asbestos, which was used as insulation on steam locomotives and diesel locomotives. Asbestos was also used in railroad equipment and locomotive parts. Asbestos fibers are toxic when inhaled. Exposure to asbestos can cause mesothelioma, a rare and aggressive cancer that affects the membrane lining most of the organs.

Inhaling asbestos can also lead to asbestosis, a condition where scar-like tissue builds up in the lungs. This impairs lung function and eventually leads to death.

Railroad Worker Lawsuits and Verdicts

Parker Waichman notes that various railroad worker personal injury lawsuits have been filed around the country, leading to several verdicts. Litigation began years ago; in the 1980’s, 47 railroad workers were awarded $58 million. The lawsuit filed on their behalf alleged that they were exposed to the carcinogen TCDD, or “dioxin”.

Another lawsuit was filed on behalf of a railroad worker who died of lung cancer in 2003. He was exposed to asbestos during the 1950s while on-the-job. In February 2015, a jury handed down a verdict of $3.1 million to his family.

Another railroad worker cancer verdict was awarded last September. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a man who was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, according to the Madison-St. Cloud Record. The plaintiff states that he was exposed to creosote, degreasing solvents, and other hazardous materials without protective equipment. Union Pacific Railroad Company was named as a defendant.

The plaintiff developed Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), which progressed into Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML). The lawsuit alleges that his cancer resulted from occupational exposure to hazardous materials. The plaintiff states that he installed railroad ties “soaking wet” with creosote and that the chemical soaked through his skin and clothes. After hearing his case, an Illinois jury awarded him $7.5 million.

Earlier this year, the Supreme Court agreed to consider railroad worker personal injury lawsuits filed against BNSF Railway Company. Court records show that 33 lawsuits were filed against the company in Montana alleging that workers became injured on-the-job.

One lawsuit was filed on behalf of a man who died of kidney cancer. The suit alleges that his cancer resulted from years of exposure to carcinogenic chemicals. Another plaintiff alleges that he developed knee injuries while working as a fuel truck driver for the company. BNSF tried to have the lawsuits tossed, arguing that Montana does not have jurisdiction because the plaintiffs neither worked nor were injured in that state. The Montana Supreme Court disagreed, finding that since BNSF does business in the state, Montana does have jurisdiction. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case in January.

Swiss Researchers Study Cancer Rates in Railroad Workers Exposed ELF-MF

In 2007, the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that exposure to high levels of extremely low frequency magnetic fields (ELF-MF) may be somewhat linked to an increased risk of cancer in Swiss railroad workers. “Some evidence of an exposure–response association was found for myeloid leukaemia and Hodgkin’s disease, but not for other haematopoietic and lymphatic malignancies and brain tumours,” the authors wrote.

The study analyzed data from over 20,000 Swiss railway workers between 1972 and 2002.

Researchers commented that “…railway employees are an attractive group for cohort studies into magnetic fields. In Switzerland railway workers are generally employed long term, resulting in limited job changes. The exposure conditions at a given workplace are well characterised but vary greatly across different occupations, with train drivers being exposed to very high ELF‐MF levels and exposure in other employees comparable to that of the general population.”

Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you or someone you know is interested in filing a lawsuit involving Railroad worker benzene exposure, cancer risks, or other occupational hazards, contact one of our personal injury attorneys today. Parker Waichman offers free, no-obligation case evaluations. For more information, fill out our online form or call 1-800-YOURLAWYER (1-800-968-7529).

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