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Railroad not liable for worker's heart attack death


CSX Transportation Inc. was not liable for the 2006 death of a conductor from a heart attack, a Florida appeals court has ruled, upholding a lower court ruling.

Florida’s First District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee on Monday ruled that the lower court was correct in granting a motion for directed verdict in the case after ruling that railroads have no duty to anticipate potential medical emergencies not caused by workplace hazards.

The worker, Larry Sells, suffered cardiac arrest and died after he exited the train to manually operate a switch while working in a rural area of Clay County, Florida. A co-worker, Dick Wells, discovered Mr. Sells about two minutes after the heart attack and, pursuant to company policy, contacted CSX’s dispatcher via the train’s radio system rather than using his personal cell phone to dial 911.

Because of the dispatcher’s inability to communicate Mr. Sells’ exact location, it took the EMT rescue squad approximately 35 minutes to reach Mr. Sells, by which time there was nothing they could do to save his life.

Mr. Sells’ widow subsequently sued CSX under the Federal Employers Liability Act, alleging that CSX’s negligence caused his death.

In upholding the lower court ruling, the Court of Appeal said CSX did not violate the Federal Employers Liability Act. The ruling states that CSX “did not have a duty to take preventative measures to guard against an employee suffering from cardiac arrest” and that proof was lacking that CSX’s “failure to procure prompt medical assistance contributed in any way to the employee’s death.”

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