The First Department determined the defendant railroad’s motion for summary judgment in this Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) by a railroad employee assaulted by a passenger was properly denied. The court explained the evidentiary criteria under the FELA:
The Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) (45 USC § 51 et seq.) provides that operators of interstate railroads shall be liable to their employees for on-the-job injuries resulting from the railroad’s negligence. In an action under FELA, “the plaintiff must prove the traditional common-law elements of negligence: duty, breach, damages, causation and foreseeability” … . However, these elements are “substantially relaxed” and “negligence is liberally construed to effectuate the statute’s broadly remedial intended function” … . A claim under FELA “must be determined by the jury if there is any question as to whether employer negligence played a part, however small, in producing plaintiff’s injury” … . “A case is deemed unworthy of submission to a jury only if evidence of negligence is so thin that on a judicial appraisal, the only conclusion that could be drawn is that negligence by the employer could have played no part in an employee’s injury” … .
To establish the element of foreseeability, a plaintiff must show that the defendant had either actual or constructive notice of the defective condition (id.). However, notice generally presents an issue of fact for the jury … . “As with all issues under FELA, the right of the jury to pass on this issue must be liberally construed, with the jury’s power to draw inferences greater than in a common-law action” … .
Under the foregoing relaxed standard, there is sufficient evidence to raise an issue of fact concerning defendant’s actual or constructive notice of a risk of assault to conductors on the New Haven Line. Plaintiff testified that she was previously assaulted by a passenger, and that there was an ongoing problem of physical intimidation by large groups of adolescents refusing to pay their fares, which caused her to fear for her safety. Plaintiff also testified that she has called the MTA’s rail traffic controllers for police assistance at least 250 times to deal with abusive passengers; another conductor was punched in the face and knocked out on the New Haven Line; a passenger attempted to stab and rob another conductor on the Harlem Line. Stephney v MTA Metro-N. R.R., 2019 NY Slip Op 05004, First Dept 6-20-19