Substantial Confidential Settlement in Railroad Lung Cancer Case Involving Asbestos and Diesel Exhaust Fumes


What Happened

We recently resolved a transportation railroad worker's lung cancer and diesel exhaust cancer claim arising out of his employment with a railroad.  Many railroads are hiding the truth about the railroad work environment (including crew cabs of diesel engines, and other workplaces laden with asbestos) by insisting on confidentiality clauses in settlements entered with our law firm and many others.  The confidentiality clause in the releases typically state that no settlement amount may be revealed, and no public report may be made of the particulars of the settlement.  Accordingly, we will not be identifying any particulars of this case in order not to violate a confidentiality clause, but instead will be discussing “public” information we have developed in numerous railroad (FELA) injury cases, such as mesothelioma railroad disease cases we handled, or lung cancer cases, including the one settled.

Click below for more information on Railroad worker lung cancer caused by asbestos and diesel exhaust fumes:


General Background

Our client was employed with the railroad for over 35 years and worked on diesel engines, and also stayed in hotels that he believed were insulated with asbestos pipes and insulating materials.  Less than 2 years after his retirement, he noticed he was short of breath and having some strange symptoms so he went to his internist who referred him to a pulmonary (lung) doctor.  The doctor didn't like what he found and ordered a series of tests.  One of those tests was a bronchoscopy and a mass was noted.  Biopsies were done and it was determined our client was suffering from lung cancer.  Our client suspected exposures at the railroad to asbestos, and possibly exposure to diesel exhaust fumes as potential causes of his cancer and he contacted us for representation in his Federal Employers Liability Act case for his on the job injuries/disease.

Railroad Heavy Use of Asbestos Insulating Materials

While asbestos was used as insulating material in all types of environments and buildings, railroads are well known to have been heavy users of asbestos insulating materials.  All kinds of railroad equipment was insulated with asbestos insulation and/or gaskets or parts in an effort to reduce heat.  For example, in an effort to reduce heat in the crew cab areas of diesel-powered engines, insulating materials were used that contained asbestos.  Further, all diesel engines were supplied with some form of heat although the railroads never supplied air conditioning until the 1990s because they were trying to save money.  But with regard to the forced heat that was provided to nearly every diesel engine, the pipes that led from under the floor of the engine to the crew cab area were insulated with asbestos piping.  This meant that every time workers turned on heating day after day, month after month and year after year, invisible asbestos fibers were blowing through the air into the confined space of the crew cab of the engine.  Each individual asbestos fiber is invisible to the naked eye and only when there are significant asbestos fibers in the air can the human eye actually detect them so essentially crew cabs were invisible toxic chambers for railroad workers like switchman, conductors and engineers.  Just a few asbestos fibers can lodge in the lower part of the lungs, and years or decades later lead to cancers, so it is hard to imagine a more toxic carcinogen.  In fact, mesothelioma cancer, which strikes a lining outside the lung itself, can be caused by just one exposure to asbestos—and decades later cause a terminal cancer.

The nation’s railroads knew that asbestos was toxic and a cause of permanent and potentially lethal lung disease as early as the 1930’s.  By the 1950’s all the nation’s railroads knew that asbestos caused cancers like lung cancer and mesothelioma, a terminal cancer only caused by asbestos.  Even cigarette smoking is irrelevant to mesothelioma, and is known to have a “synergistic” (increasing the rate) impact on lung cancer.  Many of our prior client’s smoked cigarettes and were exposed to asbestos, making their odds on getting their cancer higher.

Medical Evidence of Asbestos Cancers

Can a railroad worker like a conductor or engineer contract lung cancer without ever knowing they were actually exposed to asbestos at work?  Of course the answer is yes but competent medical professionals must provide the link between the occupational exposures and whether the worker likely suffered cancer from that environment.  Skilled railroad injury cancer attorneys work with industrial safety professionals called "industrial hygienists" who can review materials from the railroad workplace, interview the worker, and determine whether the railroad followed proper industrial practices.  Our evidence has shown that with regard to all of the nation's major railroads, they ignored the toxic dangers of asbestos for decades, and ignored its cancer-causing carcinogenic properties, figuring that if workers ever got cancers it would be years or decades after the exposures occurred.  For these reasons, lawyers are necessary to help with proving that lung, colon or other cancers like mesothelioma, were connected with the railroad occupation.  Also, there are occupational medicine doctors who specialize in analyzing workers and their exposures to toxic substances like asbsestos.  We often refer our clients to an occupational medicine specialist in order to help with whether the cancer was caused by the railroad workplace.

Medical Evidence of Diesel Exhaust Fumes and Lung Cancer

All major international cancer organizations agree that prolonged exposure to diesel exhaust fumes is linked to lung cancer.  Over 10 separated well known carcinogens are found in the diesel fumes that billow from diesel engine exhaust stacks on railroads.  For decades, conductors and engineers routinely inhaled these toxic fumes insides crew cabs, unaware of the carcinogenic toxic nature of the fumes.  The nation’s railroads (BNSF, CSX Norfolk Southern, Conrail, through their earlier or merged railroads) knew in the 1950’s that fumes contained toxic cancer causing substances, and medical journal articles published in the 1980’s reinforced the medical connection between lung cancers and the diesel fumes.

Putting the Pieces Together and Settling the Case

Our job as railroad injury cancer lawyers requires that we put the pieces together by finding and accessing internal railroad documents that show where the asbestos was, when the railroad removed it, and what the railroads knew about the dangers.  Our firm has gathered substantial evidence of these internal railroad documents at the nation’s railroads.  We are not at liberty to reveal any particulars of a settlement, or with which railroad, but needless to say we have represented a number of workers who have presented their lung cancer or other cancer claims to the railroads and we have successfully resolved these cases.  This case result is indicative of what we have accomplished in past cases but should not be interpreted as any particularized settlement that we have entered nor should it be interpreted as one with any of the specific railroads mentioned in this article. 


Substantial Confidential Settlements (Terms Cannot be revealed because of confidentiality clauses insisted upon by railroads).  


  • Richard N. Shapiro, Railroad Worker Injury Attorney. 


  • Roz H., Paula M.


  • Confidential. 


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