Cases & Deals

U.S. railroad responds to petition seeking NTSB reconsideration in investigation of rail yard employee fatality

Client(s) U.S. railroad

Jones Day was retained by a railroad client to investigate and draft a response to a petition for reconsideration filed with the National Transportation Safety Board by the national legislative office of a railroad union. The matter involved a rail yard accident where a worker was killed while attempting to couple two freight cars together by using a remote control device to control the movement of a locomotive.

The NTSB concluded that the probable cause of the accident was "the operator's loss of situational awareness." The Union claimed that the Board's investigation was erroneous, and it sought a determination that one-person work crews using remote control devices in rail yards to control the movement of locomotives are inherently dangerous and should be banned across the United States. Jones Day's railroad client disagreed with the Union and pointed out in its response how the Board's investigation was exceedingly thorough. The railroad also demonstrated in detail how the accident was caused by the operator's loss of situational awareness.

On October 24, 2013, after reviewing the parties' submissions, the NTSB denied the Union's petition for reconsideration of the Board's probable cause determination of the accident. The NTSB reviewed the evidence, found that its investigation was complete, and concluded that "all mechanical, operational and human factors were considered." The NTSB also stood by its probable cause determination, and the Board rejected the Union's arguments regarding banning one-person crews. The Board held that such a request for a safety recommendation is improper in a petition for reconsideration.

The NTSB's denial of the Union's petition has national significance to the safety and operation of one-person work crews.

National Transportation Safety Board, Accident No. DCA-09-FR-005