PHILADELPHIA – A Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) flagman has filed a lawsuit against his employer for violation of the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), in response to Lyme Disease and Bell’s Palsy he says he was exposed to and contracted in the course of his work duties.
Stephen A. Figueroa of Warminster filed suit in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas on May 22 versus SEPTA, also of Philadelphia.
“On May 16, 2017, Mr. Figueroa was working at 49th Street Station as a flagman protecting a contractor who was working along with SEPTA at the Arsenal Interlocking, which is close to or outside the 49th Street Station in Philadelphia. The worksite was infested with ticks and SEPTA knew or had reason to know that its employees, including plaintiff, risked exposure to tick bites while working in the area,” according to the complaint.
On the day in question, Figueroa worked from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., returned home to take a quick shower, then came back to the job site to work an overtime shift lasting until 11:30 p.m, the suit says. When Figueroa was home, he picked away at something in his hairline, which he later learned was a tick that infected him with Lyme Disease, the suit says.
Two days later, he discovered a rash in the very same area and eight days later, Figueroa reported a funny feeling around his mouth area while he was trying to eat a sandwich, and soon discovered he could not talk or whistle, the suit says. Believing he was suffering a stroke, he went to Doylestown Hospital for treatment and was diagnosed as suffering from Lyme Disease related-Bell’s Palsy, a type of facial paralysis, the suit says.
Figueroa was prescribed doxycycline, and later diagnosed with ocular surface disease resulting in dry eye and chronic tearing due to the fact that he could not fully close his eye, as a result of the Bell’s Palsy, the suit says.
Furthermore, Figueroa claims prior to his hiring, SEPTA removed a document from its intranet, Fact Sheet 5043, which instructed employees to take certain precautions to protect themselves from ticks – and at the present time, the lawsuit says SEPTA has no company policy governing this same issue.
“In light of a prior case brought by Lance Henry against SEPTA for exposure to Lyme Disease, SEPTA has no excuse for failing to have a consistent policy disseminated to all workers to protect them from exposure to Lyme Disease through ticks or by working outside in the woods during late spring/early summer. In the Lance Henry matter, the neutral arbitrator, Harris Bock, made the following findings regarding liability:
• Under FELA, SEPTA has a statutory duty to provide a safe workplace for their employees.
• SEPTA had a duty to provide to its employees policies and procedures for avoiding and protecting against Lyme Disease.
• SEPTA was negligent in its failure to provide a safe work environment for plaintiff, and such negligence was the legal cause of plaintiff’s injuries.
As a result, Figueroa says he now suffers from Post-Lyme Syndrome and Bell’s Palsy, the latter of which has affected his speech, eating and appearance, and also deals with an eyelid droop which causes irritation to this eye because of dry eye syndrome.
Figueroa claims SEPTA violated federal law by not providing him with a safe place to work, failed to comply with its own internal safety rules and regulations and failed to provide appropriate, functional and safe protective gear, in addition to a number of other charges.
For one count of FELA violation and related negligence, the plaintiff is seeking damages in excess of $50,000 plus interest, costs and any other amount the Court deems fit to award, in addition to a trial by jury.
The plaintiff is represented by James J. McEldrew III and Ian M. Bryson of McEldrew Young, in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas case 180502339
From the Pennsylvania Record: Reach Courts Reporter Nicholas Malfitano at firstname.lastname@example.org