Last week, a jury awarded $50,000 in compensatory damages and $1 million in punitive damages to plaintiff, Andy Barati in a Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA) case trial. In 2008, Barati was working for Metro North Commuter Rail on Grand Central Terminal, New York City when a jack failed and a railroad tie injured his foot. After initially being fired, Barati’s discharge was converted to a suspension by management with back pay.
As part of the 2007 enactment of the FRSA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) found that management violated the act, citing Metro North for poor training and lighting. In the end, Barati’s only economic loss was $1,428 for his lost wages during the seven-day trial.
In light of the FRSA, these types of rulings where maximum punitive damages are awarded, no matter how small the economic loss, will be more common place in the future.
For more information on how this law is changing the landscape of rail/labor relations, contact the Railroad Law Group at Burns White.