Can An Individual Injured While Connecting Railcars Into a Train File a Suit Under FSAA and Federal Employees Liability Act ?

In Phillips v. CSX Transportation. Inc., 190 F.3d 285, 289 (4th Cir. 1999), the plaintiff injured his back while connecting several railcars into a train when the handrail he was using to climb into one of the railcars gave way. Phillips, 190 F.3d at 287. The plaintiff filed suit under the Federal Safety Appliance Act (FSAA) and the Federal Employer's Liability Act (FELA), alleging that the handrail failure amounted to a violation of the FSAA. Phillips, 190 F.3d at 287. The district court granted the plaintiff's partial summary judgment motion on liability, and the defendant appealed. Phillips, 190 F.3d at 287. The Fourth Circuit reversed, noting that the key issue in the case was determining "the point at which switching operations end and a train becomes 'in use.'" Phillips, 190 F.3d at 289. By its very language, it appears the Fourth Circuit's framework of its analysis concerns a train as the unit of equipment. Ultimately, the Phillips court concluded that "the train upon which the plaintiff was injured was not 'in use' at the time of his injury." Phillips, 190 F.3d at 290. In Phillips, the plaintiff's claim was founded on a violation of the handrail provision of the FSAA (49 U.S.C. 20302(a)(2) (2000)).