Norfolk Southern Railroad is one of the largest railroad companies in the United States. Over the decades, the railroad has exposed countless workers to asbestos in their line of work. In some cases, exposure to the deadly mineral resulted in workers being diagnosed with asbestosis or mesothelioma. If a worker and his mesothelioma attorney can prove that the work exposure led to the disease, he could be entitled to a large amount of mesothelioma compensation.
Below is more information about some of the ways in which Norfolk Southern exposed workers to asbestos in their work duties. Many of these workers did not develop the cancer until decades later, but it is still very possible with a good mesothelioma attorney to prove negligence on the part of Norfolk Southern, which can lead to a significant settlement or verdict.
Ways of Asbestos Exposure
Steam Locomotives and Boilers
Norfolk Southern over the years has used many types of railroad equipment, train cars, and locomotives that are associated with asbestos lung cancers and diseases. One of the most dangerous sources that can cause cancer and asbestosis is the insulating materials Norfolk Southern used on steam locomotives.
Norfolk Southern and other railroads, such as CSX, used steam locomotives from the 1940s to the 1960s. Steam locomotives were full of asbestos, not only on the outside of the engine but under the metal shell on the outside and also inside the cab of the engine. The outside of the locomotive was coated in asbestos; this was referred to as lagging. The insulation blankets used for this purpose on steam locomotives was sold for years by Johns-Manville, as well as several other companies that have changed their names. Also, asbestos insulation was used to cover the boiler and firebox inside the locomotive at Norfolk Southern.
The fireman, who was a type of engineer, was usually the one to keep the fire high on the locomotive. Asbestos insulation was used to totally surround the boiler, and steam pipes that were coated with asbestos were all over the steam locomotive.
With steam locomotives, it was common for so much asbestos dust to be inside the cab that it could actually become visible to the naked eye; even asbestos fibers that are invisible to the naked eye can cause mesothelioma.
Documents from Norfolk Southern and other large railroads have shown that the company knew that cabooses on their trains contained asbestos insulation, particularly in the ceiling and stove pipes. Most railroads including Norfolk Southern featured cabooses into the 1970s but the company did nothing to take out the asbestos in them.
Norfolk Southern and other railroads tried to argue that diesels did not have any asbestos on them. This is not the case; it has been found that many diesel locomotives in the 1970s and later had asbestos insulation. The Norfolk Southern engines often had gaskets that contained asbestos, and it has been shown that even invisible microscopic asbestos fibers from gaskets can lead to disease. There also were other areas of the engines that had asbestos, such as locomotive radios with a small sheet of asbestos. Also, it has been proven that Norfolk Southern knew there was asbestos in their diesel locomotives in the 1970s but did not eliminate asbestos from them until the 1990s.
Previous Asbestos Lawsuits Against Norfolk Southern
One of the Norfolk Southern asbestos exposure cases that received a high level of publicity was in 2015 when a man from Chesapeake, Virginia sued his former employer of more than 40 years, saying that his employment there led to his mesothelioma. Ralph Pennington was diagnosed with pleural mesothelioma in March 2015, according to lawsuit documents. The man worked since 1963 as a conductor, brakeman, car retarder and barnyard foreman for the company in Chesapeake and Norfolk.
When he worked as a brakemen, the worker used hand brakes to slow cars as they came into the railyard. The brake dust that came from the trains had asbestos fibers in them, according to the lawsuit. He also claimed he was exposed to asbestos that was used to insulate ceilings, pipes, floors and walls on the carriages of trains. (Pilotonline.com).
Norfolk Southern denied the allegations in this mesothelioma lawsuit. The plaintiff sought $5 million and said the company was negligent and did not provide the worker with a safe environment in which to work. For example, Norfolk Southern failed to provide him with any protective clothing or a mask to protect him from deadly asbestos fibers.
George Brogan worked for Norfolk Southern for 42 years as a roundhouse foreman. He said that the company was good to him and his family. A few years after he retired in 1986, had some difficulty breathing that he first dismissed as asthma. When he went to a mesothelioma doctor, he learned that he had asbestosis, which slowly destroys lung tissue and makes it very difficult to breathe.
Brogan and hundreds of former workers for the railroad went to court in Roanoke, Virginia. They argued in court that the railroad was aware that asbestos exposure could kill them, but the company did nothing.
In 1996, a jury in Roanoke found that Norfolk Southern had not done anything to protect Brogan and two other workers from asbestosis and mesothelioma. The jury ordered Norfolk Southern to pay $150,000 to Brogan and $300,000 to the two other men. (ble-t.org)
The railroad appealed the judgments and they were both settled out of court later. Another asbestos verdict against Norfolk Southern occurred in Roanoke in 1986 when a federal jury granted $300,000 to a railroad worker.
Future Legal Claims Against Norfolk Southern
If you are a former railroad worker for Norfolk Southern and you want to file suit because of your mesothelioma, you will do so with your attorney under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act or FELA. This is a complex area of the law, so if you have been diagnosed with any asbestos-related condition after being employed by Norfolk Southern, it is recommended to talk to a mesothelioma attorney right away.
It should be remembered that Norfolk Southern and other railroads were aware of the dangers of asbestos as far back as the 1930s. At that time, there were meetings at major railroads, and doctors made recommendations about how to prevent asbestos related diseases. Some recommendations were to wet down the substance, provide respirators and generally control dust in the workplace. They also suggested monitoring worker health with X-rays but this was never done until the 1970s. The fact that railroads had this advice many decades ago and did little to nothing to protect workers opens them to substantial liability in many asbestos and mesothelioma lawsuits.
Also note that claims against railroads filed under FELA need to be brought within 36 months of the date when the worker knew or should have known that the disease he was diagnosed with was associated with his work on the railroad. So, time is limited to file your lawsuit against Norfolk Southern or another railroad.
- Chesapeake Man Sues Norfolk Southern, Claims Company’s Negligence Caused His Cancer. (2015). Retrieved from https://pilotonline.com/news/article_f213e1f6-1633-5eaa-bedc-10b5f7905d05.html#_ga=1.152232763.38253147.1446028171
- Railroad Asbestos Cases Resemble Family Feud. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ble-t.org/pr/news/headline.asp?id=8046