A Brooklyn jury awarded three retired Long Island Railroad (LIRR) workers a total of 16.4 million dollars for lung disease caused by their exposure to asbestos while working for the railroad. Following an eight day jury trial before the Honorable Lawrence Knipel, Albito Velez-Zapata of Massepequa Park, New York was awarded 8 million dollars, Lincoln Aguirre of Deer Park, New York was awarded 6 million dollars and James Harrington of Brookville, New York was awarded 2.4 million dollars. The consolidated claims were filed under the Federal Employee’s Liability Act (FELA), a special law designed to protect interstate railroad workers.
The workers, represented by Alan T. Friedman of Jersey City’s Bagolie Friedman Injury Lawyers and Paul Garner, were exposed to deadly asbestos fibers while grinding gaskets on a high revolution wire wheel and while working around contaminated rail cars and locomotives. The jury found that the railroad knew about the dangers of asbestos dust beginning in the 1930s and failed warn their workers of the dangers and failed to protect them from the deadly fibers.
LIRR argued that the dust masks were available to the workers, despite the fact that their own Asbestos Awareness Program advised that dust masks were not adequate protection for workers exposed to asbestos. This Asbestos Awareness Program was not implemented until the 1990’s, long after other industries had reacted to their asbestos problems. Additionally, the Long Island Railroad was fined by the State of New York in the 1990’s for failing to implement a Right to Know program to advise their workers of workplace hazards. A Federal law requiring this type of program had been passed in the 1980’s.
“The LIRR treated these workers as if they were expendable or disposable, just like the machines that it was their job to repair. The railroad considered them human overhead. This jury told the LIRR in a loud, clear voice that this is no way to treat your employees” said attorney Alan Friedman.
Alan T. Friedman has been certified as a Civil Trial Attorney by the New Jersey Supreme Court and is a founding partner of Bagolie Friedman Injury Lawyers, with offices in Jersey City and Clifton, New Jersey, Hollywood, Florida and an international affiliation in Brisbane, Australia.