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Amtrak train cleaner’s negligence charge reinstated


A federal appeals court on Friday reinstated a negligence charge filed by a passenger train coach cleaner who was injured.

Maria E. Sierra, a coach cleaner on a train operated by the National Railroad Passenger Corp., also known as Amtrak, had to clean train restrooms by mopping them several times, which often resulted in her standing on a very wet floor, according to the ruling by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in Maria E. Sierra v. National Railroad Passenger Corp.

This was potentially contrary to Amtrak’s written training materials, according to the ruling.

In July 2018, Ms. Sierra slipped and fell on the wet floor and injured her knee. She sued the Amtrak in U.S. District Court in New York for negligence under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act for failing to provide her with a safe place to work.

The district court granted Amtrak summary judgment, dismissing the case, and was overturned by a three-judge appeals court panel.

There is a “relaxed standard of negligence in FELA cases,” and a “strong federal policy” in favor of letting juries decide cases arising under the law, the decision said. 

Ms. Sierra testified, it said, that on many occasions Amtrak foremen observed her at work, in particular cleaning while standing on a wet floor and there were “no complaints or instructions not to do work in this manner,” it said.

“There is a genuine dispute of material fact as to whether Amtrak had notice that Sierra was cleaning bathrooms in a potentially hazardous manner but failed to intervene,” it said, in vacating the lower court’s judgment and remanding the case for further proceedings.

Attorneys in the case did not respond to requests for comment.