GEORGE W. STRAUB, IV, Plaintiff - Appellant,
BNSF RAILWAY COMPANY, Defendant-Appellee.
from the United States District Court for the District of
Colorado (D.C. No. 1:15-CV-01890-CMA-MEH)
L. Cox, Jr., Brent Coon & Associates, Denver, Colorado,
for the Appellant.
K. Parker (Malcolm S. Mead and Keith M. Goman on the brief),
Hall & Evans, L.L.C., Denver, Colorado, for the Appellee.
BACHARACH, MURPHY, and McHUGH, Circuit Judges.
MURPHY, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
Straub, an employee of BNSF Railway Company
("BNSF"), injured his back and neck when, in the
course and scope of his duties, he attempted to adjust the
engineer's chair of Locomotive #6295. Straub brought
suit, asserting BNSF was, inter alia, strictly liable for his
injuries under the provisions of the Federal Locomotive
Inspection Act ("LIA"), 49 U.S.C. §
20701-20703, and its implementing regulations, 49 C.F.R. pt.
229. Upon BNSF's Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6) motion to dismiss,
the district court concluded Straub's injuries did not
implicate LIA. The district court ruled the adjustment
mechanism of the engineer's seat was not an
"integral or essential part of a completed
locomotive." Cf. S. Ry. Co. v. Lunsford, 297
U.S. 398, 402 (1936) (describing the parts of a locomotive
that are covered by LIA). Instead, according to the district
court, the seat adjustment mechanism was a non-essential
comfort device. In reaching this conclusion, the district
court relied on this court's decision in King v.
Southern Pacific Transportation Co., 855 F.2d 1485,
1488-89 (10th Cir. 1988). Straub appeals, asserting the
district court's reliance on King is misplaced.
Exercising jurisdiction pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 1291,
this court reverses and
remands the matter to the district court for
further proceedings consistent with this opinion.
General Legal Background
enacted the Federal Employers' Liability Act
("FELA"), 45 U.S.C. §§ 51-60, after it
determined the railroad industry owed a duty to its employees
who daily expose themselves to extreme hazards. FELA provides
that "[e]very common carrier by railroad . . . shall be
liable in damages to any person suffering injury while he is
employed by such carrier . . . for such injury or death
resulting in whole or in part from the negligence of any of
the officers, agents, or employees of such carrier."
Id. § 51. "[T]he general congressional
intent was to provide liberal recovery for injured
workers." Kernan v. Am. Dredging Co., 355 U.S.
426, 432 (1958). Thus, FELA does "away with several
common-law tort defenses that had effectively barred recovery
by injured workers." Consol. Rail Corp. v.
Gottshall, 512 U.S. 532, 542-43 (1994) (noting FELA
rejects the doctrine of contributory negligence, prohibits
employers from exempting themselves from coverage via
contract, and abolishes the defense of assumption of risk).
Given that Congress intended FELA to be a broad, remedial
statute, the Supreme Court has adopted a standard of liberal
construction to facilitate Congress's objective of
compensating railroad workers who are injured on the job.
See, e.g., id. at 543; CSX Transp., Inc. v.
McBride, 564 U.S. 685, 691-92, 695 (2011).
an amendment to FELA and the two statutes are to be construed
together. See Urie v. Thompson, 337 U.S. 163, 189
(1949). LIA makes it unlawful for a carrier to use
any locomotive on its railway lines unless the locomotive and
its "parts and appurtenances are safe to operate."
49 U.S.C. § 20701(1). As is true of FELA, LIA must be
construed liberally to carry out its remedial and
humanitarian purposes. Urie, 337 U.S. at 189, 191;
see also Garcia v. Burlington N. R.R. Co., 818 F.2d
713, 715 (10th Cir. 1987) (holding that because LIA is
"a remedial statute, it should be construed liberally to
protect railroad workers against harm caused by defective
railroad equipment"). The remedial purposes of FELA and
LIA are promoted through the imposition of different types of
liability. Unlike FELA, where proof of negligence is
required, LIA imposes on railroad carriers an absolute duty
to maintain the locomotive in proper condition and safe to
operate. 49 U.S.C. § 20701; Lilly v. Grand Trunk W.
R.R. Co., 317 U.S. 481, 485 (1943); Matson v.
Burlington N. Santa Fe R.R., 240 F.3d 1233, 1235 (10th
Cir. 2001). Even if a railroad carrier complies with every
regulation promulgated by the Federal Railroad Administration
("FRA"),  it will still violate LIA if a locomotive
is not in proper condition and safe to operate without
unnecessary danger of injury. Lilly, 317 U.S. at
does not create a private right of action. Urie, 337
U.S. at 188. A railroad employee injured due to a LIA
violation brings an action through FELA; a LIA violation
substitutes for "negligence" in 45 U.S.C. § 51
and creates strict liability. Id. at 188-89
(characterizing LIA as a supplement to FELA, which
"dispense[s], for the purposes of employees' suits,
with the necessity of proving that violations of the safety
statutes constitute negligence; and mak[es] proof of such
violations . . . effective to show negligence as a matter of
law"). A railroad carrier can violate LIA either by (1)
breaching the broad statutory duty to keep all parts and
appurtenances of its locomotives in proper condition and safe
to operate without unnecessary danger of personal injury (the
general statutory duty) or (2) failing to comply with
regulations issued by the FRA (a specific regulatory duty).
Lilly, 317 U.S. at 485-86; King, 855 F.2d
at 1489 & n.2; McGinn v. Burlington N. R.R. Co.,
102 F.3d 295, 299 (7th Cir. 1996).
relevant facts, as set out in Straub's First Amended
Complaint, are as follows. See Peterson v. Grisham,
594 F.3d 723, 727 (10th Cir. 2010) (holding that in the
context of reviewing the grant of a Fed.R.Civ.P. 12(b)(6)
motion to dismiss, this court will "accept all well-pled
factual allegations as true and view these allegations in the
light most favorable to the nonmoving party"). Straub
was injured on September 9, 2012, while working in the course
and scope of his employment with BNSF. On that day, Straub
was assigned to work as an engineer on Locomotive #6295, a
coal train originating out of Gillette, Wyoming. Just prior
to departure, Straub attempted to adjust the seat assembly.
The seat moved initially, and then stopped abruptly and
unexpectedly, causing injury to his back and neck. Straub
reported the condition of the seat to BNSF. "A
Mechanical Department employee responded to the locomotive,
attempted to move the seat, experienced the same problem,
inspected the adjustment mechanism, and then oiled the
adjustment mechanism on the engineer's seat is intended
to allow the engineer to move the seat forward or backward,
thereby providing a safe and a comfortable position for the
engineer to operate the locomotive. The defective condition
of the adjustment mechanism made it unsafe to operate and
created a risk of injury because, among other things, the
seat moved some distance then stopped unexpectedly while
pressure was being applied to move the heavy engineer's
seat in a bent-over position. The seat and its adjustment
mechanisms are one unit, and an essential and integral part
of the locomotive. Attached to the operative complaint are
pictures of the engineer's chair. See Tellabs, Inc.
v. Makor Issues & Rights, Ltd., 551 U.S. 308, 322
(2007) ("[C]ourts must consider the complaint in its
entirety, as well as other sources courts ordinarily examine
when ruling on Rule 12(b)(6) motions to dismiss, in
particular, documents incorporated into the complaint by
reference . . . ."). Those pictures include the
operating instructions for the chair's various adjustment
mechanisms, which instructions are attached to the back of
the engineer's chair. The operating instructions include
several diagrams that explain the various functions of the
engineer's chair (e.g., "lumbar horizontal adjust
handle," "seat back recline adjust handle,"
"track fore & aft adjust handle," and
"footrest height adjust pedal"). A particularly
relevant set of diagrams show that ...