CHARLOTTE, N.C., Aug. 3, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- In a petition for writ of certiorari filed yesterday, the Supreme Court of the United States was asked to hear the case of Edward Blackorby v. BNSF Railway Company (BNSF), an important case under the anti-retaliation provisions of the Federal Railroad Safety Act (FRSA). The issue presented involves the burden of proof for employees who seek protection under the FRSA and other federal laws designed to protect whistleblower employees in fields including transportation, consumer goods, healthcare, and finance. In the petition, Mr. Blackorby seeks to have the Supreme Court review a prior decision of the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals and resolve a split between federal circuits.
In June 2015, a unanimous Federal jury found that BNSF retaliated against Mr. Blackorby for reporting a work related injury following a trial in Kansas City, MO. The jury awarded compensatory damages to Mr. Blackorby and BNSF was ordered to pay his attorney fees and the costs of bringing the suit. BNSF subsequently appealed to the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held that whistleblowing employees must prove "animus." Such a position has been rejected by numerous other appellate courts and by the Secretary of Labor, but the Eighth Circuit's finding that the jury should have been instructed about this "requirement" meant that the verdict could not stand. As the petition explains, the statute does not impose that burden. Congress amended FRSA in 2007 so that deserving employees like Mr. Blackorby are not defeated by such unrealistic proof requirements. If the Supreme Court grants review, additional filings will be ordered and the matter will be scheduled for oral argument, likely in early 2018.
Mr. Blackorby was represented at trial, and also on appeal, by Jeff Dingwall of San Diego, CA and Kiel Garella of Charlotte, NC. They, along with David Goldberg and a team of students from the Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, represent Mr. Blackorby before the Supreme Court. Dingwall and Garella have been at the forefront of FRSA litigation, having obtained numerous rulings in cases across the country to fortify the rights of railroaders.
"The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on this particular issue, so we are grateful to have the opportunity to bring it to the Court's attention," said Jeff Dingwall.
"We are optimistic that the Court will see this case as an opportunity to resolve an intercircuit split and help further establish uniformity surrounding this law," added Kiel Garella. "We are proud to represent employees in whistleblower cases and to have the opportunity to continue advocating on Mr. Blackorby's behalf."
Jeff Dingwall of Eight & Sand and Kiel Garella of Garella Law, P.C. are nationally recognized for their work representing men and women across the country that have been injured or killed by railroads. The Stanford Law School Supreme Court Litigation Clinic, with a perfect 5-0 record, was recognized as the most successful law office in the country during the Supreme Court's most recent term.
SOURCE Garella Law