Widow of bridge worker who fell to his death sues CSX; Suit says company failed to provide portable toilet

By Jon Campisi | Jul 24, 2012

The widow of a railroad worker who plunged 90 feet to his death last fall after attempting to relieve himself over a bridge has filed a federal lawsuit against her deceased husband’s former employer, alleging the company’s failure to provide a portable toilet at the worksite led to the man’s death.

In her complaint, which alleges violations of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, Wilmington, Del. resident Caroline Burrows claims that Maryland-based CSX Transportation Inc. is to blame for the Sept. 19, 2011, death of Bernard T. Burrows, who worked as a bridge mechanic for the defendant.

The lawsuit states that on that day last fall, the late Burrows was working to replace rail and ties on the bridge over Garrett Island between Havre de Grace and Perryville, MD, when, after urinating over the side of the bridge, he fell to his death nearly 100 feet below.

The suit states that because of CSX’s failure to provide a portable toilet or other “relief facilities” at the worksite, Burrows was forced to relieve himself over the bridge, an act that ultimately caused his death.

Burrows was walking on the bridge when an improperly secured grading platform placed over a hole in the decking gave way, causing the rail worker to fall to the ground below, the suit states.

Burrows sustained numerous head and bodily injuries after he hit the ground, including a skull fracture, subarachnoid hemorrhage, a fractured clavicle, hand and rib fractures, abrasions, contusions and a host of other injuries.

“Upon information and belief, Mr. Burrows did not die or lose consciousness instantaneously, but remained alive and conscious for a period of time, in physical pain and mental anguish,” the lawsuit states. “The autopsy revealed Mr. Burrows’ hemoaspiration, evidencing that he was still breathing. Upon information and belief, Mr. Burrows was conscious as he fell ninety to a hundred feet, and knew he was falling to his death or severe injury.”

The lawsuit says that as part of its duty under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, CSX Transportation was obligated to provide safe and secure walkways, adequate manpower to help workers perform their jobs, sufficient training to employees, and had a duty to promulgate and enforce safe work methods, practices, procedures and rules.

The complaint also faults the defendant for failing to provide adequate fall restraint, requiring Burrows to walk to the edge of a bridge to relieve himself, and failing to warn the man of the unsafe walking conditions posed by the insecure grading platform.

The suit was filed on behalf of Caroline Burrows and her decedent’s surviving relatives, who include the couple’s two sons and two daughters.

The plaintiff seeks unspecified compensatory damages, as well as interest, attorney’s fees, costs and other court relief deemed appropriate.

The lawsuit was filed July 20 at the federal court in Philadelphia by attorney William L. Myers, Jr., of the Myers Lafferty Law Offices.


The federal case number is 2:12-cv-04139-TJS.

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