Armstrong v. Kansas City Southern Railway Company
752 F.2d 1110 (5h Cir. 1985)

Facts:

  • Armstrong was traveling as a brakeman.
  • Pursuant to orders from L & A, he disembarked from the train to assist in placing a cut of cars on a side track.
  • In accordance with its custom, L & A then summoned a taxicab, owned and operated by Miller, to take Armstrong back to the yard office.
  • He was injured when a motorist struck the cab.
  • L & A and KC were sued under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), and L & A filed an indemnity action against the cab company (Miller).
    • FELA protects and compensates railroaders injured on the job.

History:

  • Jury ruled in favor Armstrong.
  • The District Court dismissed the indemnity action.

Issues:

  • Could the driver of the cab have reasonably foreseen that another motorist would strike the cab?
  • Was the decision to dismiss the indemnity action clearly erroneous?

Holding:
Affirmed.

Reasoning:

  • FELA allows recovery of damages for personal injuries to an employee of a railroad if the injuries resulted “in whole or in part from the negligence of any of the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier.” Under the Act, a railroad will be liable if its negligence or its agent’s negligence played any part, even the slightest, in producing the employee’s injury.
    • Thus, this standard is less demanding than the common-law proximate cause standard.
  • Here, there was sufficient evidence for the jury to infer negligence on the part of the cab driver: It was dark; nevertheless, the cab driver stopped approximately four or five feet from the elevated railroad crossing and failed to turn on his emergency flashing lights. Further, the cab driver could have parked on the adjacent shoulder of the road or in a nearby parking lot.
  • To succeed in its third party indemnity action against Miller, however, L & A was required to show under Louisiana law that Miller’s fault or negligence was the proximate cause of Armstrong’s injury.
  • Here, the record adequately supported the district court’s finding. Batiste, Armstrong’s co-worker, testified that there was insufficient room on the shoulder of the road to allow the taxi cab to completely pull off the road and that the railroad crossing was not elevated.
  • In short, evidence sufficient to support a FELA claim did not support the indemnity claim due to the different standards.