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Jax Daily Record Monday, Feb. 22, 201612:00 PM EST

Florida Supreme Court takes case in death of CSX conductor


Nearly a decade after a railroad conductor died in a remote area, the Florida Supreme Court on Friday agreed to take up a lawsuit about CSX Transportation’s duty to provide medical assistance.

Crystal Sells, the widow of conductor Larry Sells, appealed to the Supreme Court after the 1st District Court of Appeal last year ruled in favor of CSX in the negligence case.

Larry Sells died in August 2006 after suffering cardiac arrest as he went to manually operate a switch to change tracks in a rural part of Clay County, according to court documents.

A co-worker found Sells within two minutes and called a CSX dispatcher for help.

The dispatcher had trouble communicating the exact location and emergency medical technicians did not arrive on the scene for 35 minutes.

Crystal Sells filed the lawsuit contending CSX failed to provide a safe work place, with the issues including a lack of automated external defibrillators on trains.

In a 2-1 decision in May, a panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with CSX.

In a brief seeking Supreme Court review, attorneys for Crystal Sells argued CSX breached its duties under ... the Federal Employers Liability Act and that the appeals-court ruling could have broad implications.

“This decision, the first of its kind nationwide, will be used by FELA employers as persuasive authority in state and federal courts to support their failure to take precautionary measures to ensure their workers receive prompt medical care, even when they knowingly send them to remote areas that are too far from EMTs,’’ said the brief, filed in October.

While the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case, it has not set a date for arguments.

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