Workers’ compensation cases deal with workplace injuries that employees suffered while on the job. However, not all jobs are the same. While some jobs require a worker to sit at a desk in Kansas City or St. Joseph, other jobs require workers to move throughout the state of Missouri or even go into other states. For example, people who work for railroad companies could see several different states in a single day of work.
This raises a serious, but often overlooked, question: If a worker suffers a slowly-developing personal injury – like cancer because of exposure to a chemical substance – where can they file a claim against their employer? The answer can make a difference because different states have different workers’ compensation schemes that could impact how much an injured worker can receive.
A new Supreme Court case, though, severely limits where injured workers can go to file their claims.
BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell
In BNSF Railway Co. v. Tyrrell, the Supreme Court of the United States heard two case dealing with injured workers – one had a knee injury, while the other case was brought by the wife of a deceased worker, who had contracted kidney cancer from carcinogen exposure. Both workers were hurt while working with BNSF, the second-largest freight railroad company.
The hurt workers filed a lawsuit against BNSF under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), a law that applies specifically to railroads and their workers. Importantly, the FELA makes railroads liable to their employees for workplace injuries if the railroad was at least partially negligent. The workers, who were from North and South Dakota, filed their lawsuit in Montana, even though neither one was hurt there.
Supreme Court Limits Where Lawsuits Can Be Filed
Where a lawsuit can be filed is a hugely complex issue. However, when it comes to corporations, the general rule is that they can be filed wherever the corporation deliberately solicited business, unless this would be unfair under the Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
Despite the fact that BNSF has plenty of business in Montana – 6% of its total railroad track and 5% of its workforce is there, and it has one of its automotive facilities in the state – the Supreme Court decided that it was not adequately “at home” in Montana to defend a lawsuit. The court suggested that a corporation could only be “at home” in the states where it either had been incorporated, or where it had its principal place of business. For BNSF, that was Delaware and Texas, so the Court dismissed the case.
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Attorneys at the Smith Law Office
Cases like these make it far more difficult for hurt workers to get the compensation they need in order to make a full recovery. Because it limits where you can file a lawsuit against your employer, it can make the whole process a logistical nightmare.
The workers’ compensation attorneys at the Smith Law Office work diligently to make sure you get what you need after a workplace accident. Contact us online or call our St. Joseph law office at (816) 875-9373.