Federal Employers' Liability Act
Federal Employers’ Liability Act Pathfinder
The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), codified at 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq., governs the right of interstate railroad employees injured, sickened or killed in the course of their employment, through an employer’s negligence, to sue the employer for damages. The FELA is a statutory modification of the common law, but FELA actions remain largely based on common law principles of negligence. The principles of tort law and common law negligence are therefore vital to fully understanding FELA actions, and some basic resources on these subjects are listed below. Researchers should be prepared to research various other state and federal laws that may be relevant to claims joined in a particular FELA action.
This Pathfinder is designed as a study supplement for Villanova Law School students, and is not intended to constitute legal advice. The Pathfinder features resources available through the Villanova School of Law’s Law Library. It is by no means comprehensive, but does provide a point of departure for law students and researchers seeking information on the FELA. Certain electronic resources noted below are freely available on the Internet. Other resources are available through the Law Library’s webpage, and may require a password for access. Resources with a corresponding (or suggested equivalent) database in Westlaw have their database identifier noted in BOLD. Consult a Reference Librarian if you need assistance in accessing any of the Library’s electronic databases.
The Constitution of the United States: The United States Constitution grants Congress the power to regulate matters concerning interstate commerce. U. S. CONST. art. 1, § 8, cl. 3. Available online at FDsys Additional Documents
Statutes, Regulations, and Court Rules: The following links are to suggested online resources. Most of these resources may also be found in Lexis or Westlaw. Print versions of these resources are generally available in the Library’s collection. Consult the Library’s Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC) or a Reference Librarian:
United States Code, United States Code Annotated (U.S.C.A.) (USCA); United States Code Service (U.S.C.S):
Title 28: Judiciary and Judicial Procedure
28 U.S.C. § 1391. Venue generally.
28 U.S.C. § 1404. Change of venue.
28 U.S.C. § 1445. Nonremovable actions.
Title 28: Judiciary and Judicial Procedure—Appendix
Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
Title 33: Navigation and Navigable Waters.
Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act: 33 U.S.C.§ 901 et seq.
Provides for compensation of an employee injured upon the navigable waters of the United
States, including such related facilities as a marine railway. See 33 U.S.C. § 903(a).
Title 45: Railroads.
Federal Employers’ Liability Act: 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq.
Railway Labor Act: 45 U.S.C. § 151 et seq.
Title 46: Shipping.
Jones Act: 46 U.S.C. § 30104 et seq. This Act, governing the right of seamen
injured in the course of employment to bring an action against their employer, draws
on the recovery scheme of the FELA, and cases pursuant to this Act may be
illustrative of the FELA’s application. See 46 U.S.C. § 30104.
Title 49: Transportation.
Federal Railway Safety Act: 49 U.S.C. § 20101 et seq.
Code of Federal Regulations:
Title 49: Transportation
Subtitle B—Other Regulations Relating to Transportation
Chapter II—Federal Railroad Administration, Department of Transportation.
Use the CFR List of Sections Affected (LSA-available on the GPOAccess website) and the
Federal Register (published daily) to research the latest changes to federal regulations.
Case Law: Depending upon the forum and the claims involved in the particular case, a researcher may need to find federal and state case law relevant to FELA actions. Unless otherwise noted, check the Library’s OPAC for locations of the print resources listed below:
United States Supreme Court opinions:
Supreme Court of the United States
United States Reports:
(Second Floor; Compact Shelving KF101 .A3)
West’s Supreme Court Reporter:
(Second Floor; Compact Shelving KF101 .S3)
United States Supreme Court Reports, Lawyers Edition:
(Second Floor; Compact Shelving KF101 .L3)
United States Law Week:
(Hornbook Reserve KF175 .US1 General Law/Supreme Court)
West Digest System: Use the Descriptive Word Index volumes from an appropriate West Digest to find
topics and keynumbers regarding the FELA, injuries to railroad employees, the law regarding any
additional claims, and relevant state procedural law. In Westlaw, use the “Key Numbers” link to search
for topics and key numbers using your own search terms, or to browse the West Digest Outline. Use
the Custom Digest functions to locate additional cases.
West’s Federal Practice Digest 4th (Second Floor KF127 .W47 1989)
Topic 231H: Labor and Employment
West’s Pennsylvania Digest 2d (Third Floor KFP57 .W47 1983)
Other West Regional and State Digests:
Available on the Library’s Second or Third Floors, or in the Compact Shelving; consult the
OPAC or a Reference Librarian for the exact location of various digest sets.
Court websites (Pennsylvania state and federal courts):
The Unified Judicial System of Pennsylvania
Third Judicial Circuit
Eastern District of Pennsylvania
Court websites for other jurisdictions are available online.
Practice Manuals and Guides: Practice manuals and guides may be used to aid the researcher’s understanding of the practical application of FELA statutes, regulations, and case law. Consult the index to the works listed below (or search the equivalent database) for material related to the FELA. Use the OPAC or consult a Reference Librarian to find additional practice manuals and guides:
FEDERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE (Third Floor; Reserve KF8754 .W93) (FPP)
FEDERAL PROCEDURE (Third Floor KF8840 .F31 1981) (FEDPROC)
MOORE’S FEDERAL PRACTICE (Reserve KF8716.5 .M782 1997)
AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE TRIALS (Third Floor KF8915 .A74) (AMJUR-TRIALS)
Some suggested articles:
11AMJUR TRIALS 397, Litigation under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act.
72 AMJUR TRIALS 1, Railroad Health and Safety; a Litigator’s Guide.
AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE PROOF OF FACTS 3d (Third Floor KF8933 .A42) (AMJUR-POF)
AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE PLEADING AND PRACTICE FORMS ANNOTATED.
(Second Floor, Form Books KF8836 .A44) (AMJUR-PP)
Legal Dictionaries: Use legal dictionaries to define unfamiliar legal terms.
BLACK’S LAW DICTIONARY, 9th ed. (2009) (Reserve KF156 .B53 2009) (BLACKS)
Legal Encyclopedia: Legal encyclopedias provide a concise introduction to the full scope of the law, and provide numerous citations to cases and scholarly legal works that illustrate their discussions of various issues. Jurisdiction-specific encyclopedias are also available. Consult the indexes of the following resources for the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, and for related matters in particular cases:
AMERICAN JURISPRUDENCE 2d (Second Floor KF154 .A42) (AMJUR)
CORPUS JURIS SECUNDUM (Second Floor KF154 .C56) (CJS)
STANDARD PENNSYLVANIA PRACTICE 2d (Reserve KFP530 .S72 1981) (SPP)
Restatements of the Law: Compiled by the American Law Institute, these authoritative secondary sources feature concise statements of legal rules, commentary, hypothetical situations illustrating the application of the rules, and citation to cases:
RESTATEMENT OF THE LAW, SECOND, TORTS 2d
(Hornbook Reserve; Second Floor KF1249 .T685 1965) (REST-TORT)
Treatises: To find treatises on FELA and related topics, use the Law Library’s (or another library’s) online public access catalog (OPAC), or use the WORLDCAT database available to Villanova students through Falvey Library, the main campus library. Some suggestions on essential tort law follow:
W. PAGE KEETON, ET AL., PROSSER AND KEETON ON THE LAW OF TORTS
(5th ed. 1984 Lawyer’s Edition): (Hornbook Reserve KF1250 .P94 1984)
(5th ed. 1984 Student’s Edition): (Hornbook Reserve KF1250 .P93 1984)
EDWARD J. KIONKA, TORTS IN A NUTSHELL (5th ed. 2010)
(Hornbook Reserve KF1250 .Z9 .K53 2010)
Law Reviews and Journals: Research law reviews and journals using legal periodical indexes such as:
Current Law Index (Indexes K33 .C87)
Index to Legal Periodicals & Books (Indexes K33 .I534)
Search periodicals online with:
Lexis-Nexis: US Law Reviews and Journals Combined
Westlaw: Journals and Law Reviews (JLR)
Suggested journals available in print at Villanova:
THE TRANSPORTATION LAW JOURNAL (K24 .R263)
Check the Library’s OPAC for more print journals.
American Law Reports: This source features annotations (articles) on various issues of law, supported by numerous references to primary authorities. American Law Reports is available in print form in the Library on the Second Floor and in the Compact Shelving (check the OPAC for the location of particular series). They are also available online in both Lexis and Westlaw (ALR). Use the print indexes or search online for material on the FELA. A suggested annotation follows:
29 A.L.R. Fed.2d 1: Construction and Application of Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA), §§ 1 et
seq., 45 U.S.C.A. §§ 51 et seq.—U.S. Supeme Court Cases.
Legislative Histories: Legislative history material may be useful in interpreting relevant statutes and regulations regarding the FELA. Beside the suggested websites, there are many print resources for researching this material available in the Library. Ask a Reference Librarian for assistance in this field.
United States Code Congressional and Administrative News (USCCAN)
Congressional Record (Government Documents)
Thomas: Legislative Information on the Internet
Resources on the Internet: A number of useful resources on FELA and railroad law are freely available on the Internet. A few such sources are listed below:
American Association for Justice: Railroad Law Section
American Bar Association, Section of Labor and Employment Law, Railway and Airline Labor Law
Cornell University’s Legal Information Institute (LLI), Court Opinions
Many other Internet sources regarding the FELA may be found using popular Internet search engines, such as Google, Bing, or Ask. Web searches will revel that a number of practitioners and law firms specializing in FELA litigation maintain “blawgs” and informational websites that may be of interest. The Villanova Law Library can offer no opinions regarding the accuracy of the information presented on various individual sites. As with any information taken from sources on the Internet, the researcher must use their own judgment as to the veracity and timeliness of the information presented, and should take care to verify such information, insofar as may be possible and practical, through the use of trusted sources.
Federal Regulatory Agencies: Suggested Federal regulatory agencies relevant to questions of railroad and employee safety issues:
Occupational Health and Safety Administration
Federal Railroad Administration
Railroad Industry News and Information: The following website features information on railroad industry developments:
Railway Age Magazine
General news and information sources may be searched for further rail industry news, information related to FELA litigation, and railroad law in general. A number of such sites may be found by searching the Internet (the researcher is again cautioned regarding the accuracy of information presented on various websites).
Lexis and Westlaw: Students and practitioners who have password access to Westlaw and Lexis may use the resources provided by these legal information systems. Subscribers to Lexis and Westlaw can customize their access to provide a shortcut to FELA-related databases in either system.
For FELA research, you may wish to set up database tab displays in your Westlaw and/or Lexis browser windows. In Westlaw, use the “Add a Tab” function to add relevant database tabs (such as “Labor & Employment”). In Lexis, use the “Tab” link.
The tab shortcuts in Lexis and Westlaw are helpful, but you may proceed without them if you prefer. With whatever databases you select, remember to examine the “Scope Information for the database” button in Westlaw or the “Source Description” button in Lexis to learn what a particular database contains, and tips on how to efficiently access that information. In either system, searches for material on state and federal case law, tort law, personal injury matters, and labor and employment law can prove fruitful.
Some suggested databases (with their database identifier code) for FELA research in Westlaw are:
All U.S. Supreme Court Cases (SCT)
U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit Cases (CTA3)
Federal Labor & Employment—Cases (FLB-CS)
Litigating Tort Cases (LITGTORT)
Some suggested databases for FELA research in Lexis are:
Federal & State Personal Injury Cases, Combined
Federal & State Rules of Court, Combined
Moore’s Federal Practice—Civil
Personal Injury: Actions, Defenses, Damages