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Shapiro & Appleton

Appeals Court Rules That Old FELA Deal Does Not Bar Future Claims

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On 19 May 2014, Dolores Blackmon's lawsuit against Illinois Central Railroad Company was brought to an appeals court. She sued Illinois Central, alleging that her husband suffered asbestos exposure during his employment, leading to his mesothelioma and eventual death. Her claim was initially denied by the trial court because her husband signed a release in a previous Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) lawsuit, which stated that future claims of health obstruction against the company could not be made. A Tennessee appeals court, however, decided that the release does not bar her claims. Blackmon asserts that her husband, Dolphus H. Blackmon, developed mesothelioma from his extensive exposure with toxic materials during his employment.

The release stated that Illinois Central was “released from any claims resulting from Blackmon’s medical conditions or stemming from his asbestos exposure,” according to the opinion, a written decision of the appeals court. The opinion also asserted that the signed release was vague and unenforceable without totally absolving Illinois Central of any responsibility. Holding railroad companies accountable for incidents such as these is essential for the protection of the worker’s rights.

FELA exists to provide workers with the option to sue or settle with their railroad employer to receive rightful compensation for their loss. In the case of Dolores Blackmon, she may also be eligible for compensation as the survivor of their estate. If you or someone you know is a railroad worker, it is important to understand your rights to ensure your own protection. HS Injury Law outlines important facts for people who may be vulnerable to the hazards of the railroad workplace.

Railroads are a prominent source for employment in Virginia, so railroad health and safety is critical for the livelihood of millions of people in the state. The constant exposure of asbestos in Dolphus Blackmon’s work environment cost him his life. The Tennessee appellate court has served justice for Dolores Blackmon by revisiting her case and has set a positive precedent for similar cases in the future.

Richard N. Shapiro
Personal Injury & Wrongful Death Lawyer Serving Va Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake & all of Virginia
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