Earlier this month, the Texas Supreme Court held that a BNSF Railway worker waited too long to file a workplace injury suit after he found out his spinal cord injury was work-related, reversing a $1.9 million judgment.
The court ruled that the worker, who sued BNSF Railway Co. in 2007 under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act and the Locomotive Inspection Act, should have known about his back injury more than three years before he initiated a lawsuit against the company.
The worker argued that many years spent working on locomotives with poorly maintained seats caused his bulging discs and a degenerative spinal disorder. He said he was first diagnosed by a neurologist in 2005. However, BNSF argued that evidence showed the worker had been diagnosed with spinal problems two years earlier and had known since the late 1990s that working on trains would worsen his back pain.
The Texas Supreme Court said that while the determination of when the worker’s cause of action accrued is typically a question that should be answered by a jury, in this instance, it was a legal question because abundant evidence indicated the case was time-barred. The court reviewed evidence of his medical condition and said his perception of whether his injury was related to his work isn’t proof of when he should have known his pain was tied to his work.
The worker had previously won a jury trial against BNSF and a trial court awarded him $1.9 million.