The Supreme Court of the United States recently struck a blow against railroad workers in BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrell, 581 U.S. ______ (2017), which reversed and rendered an opinion by the Supreme Court of Montana that allowed railroad workers who had been injured in other states to file suit in Montana State Courts in accordance with established law. This opinion struck down over a century of established case law that allowed railroad workers to file suit in any state where the railroad conducted business. Railroad workers are covered by the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (“FELA”), the current version of which was enacted in 1908. In 1911, the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the constitutionality of the FELA and specifically held that “We conclude that rights arising under the act in question may be enforced, as of right, in the courts of the States when their jurisdictions, as prescribed by local laws, is adequate to the occasion.” Despite over a century of established precedent, the Supreme Court went out of its way to hold that the Montana courts did not have personal jurisdiction over BNSF Railway. In reaching its decision, the Supreme Court summarily dismissed the facts that BNSF has over 2,000 miles of track in the state, employees over 2,100 workers in the state, and that BNSF conceded that it is “found within” Montana as that term is defined under Montana law. Justice Sotomayor wrote a scathing dissent in which she observed, “It is individual plaintiffs, harmed by the actions of a far-flung foreign corporation, who will bear the brunt of the majority’s approach and be forced to sue in distant jurisdictions with which they have no contacts or connections.”
While this case will undoubtedly have dreadful ramifications on claims by injured workers and their families it does not affect asbestos trust claims filed against the manufacturers of asbestos products. If you or someone you know worked for a railroad prior to 1980 they can call our office toll-free at (800) 519-1440 or click here to get information about their rights to file for compensation for exposure to asbestos. Time to file is limited. All cases are taken on a contingent fee basis, meaning if we do not collect anything, you do not owe us anything.