30 year old Shannon Sampson of Minden was on the job as a supervisor with GATX Rail Field when he fell into a rail car and later died from his injuries. According to Webster Parish’s public information officer, Jenny Reynolds, Sampson fell after passing out due to a lack of oxygen.
As reported by the Shreveport Times on their website on March 12th:
Sampson was flown from the scene to a Shreveport hospital, where he later died. Bossier Parish Fire District No. 1 Assistant Chief Skip Pinkston told deputies the oxygen level in the rail car was 7.3 percent, ‘which is about half of what we need to function,’ Webster Parish Sheriff Gary Sexton said.
GATX Rail Field disassembles and refurbishes rail cars. According to another employee, workers often deal with rail cars that contain (or have held) hazardous materials. This incident is still under investigation to determine what caused Sampson’s fall.
In tragic situations like this one where someone has died in a workplace accident, their employer may be responsible for the damages. Surviving family members may pursue a wrongful death lawsuit and recover the cost of medical expenses, lost wages, or compensation for pain and suffering or loss of companionship.
Whether an employer will be held liable for a wrongful death depends on whether they acted negligently. A negligent action (or inaction) is one that falls below the appropriate standard of care for the situation. When someone works in an inherently dangerous environment the employer must take adequate precautions to ensure safety measures are in place and that employees are properly trained to deal with the dangers present. Cases often hinge on whether the given injury was forseeable. If the employer should have known that it was likely an employee could be injured or killed and did not take action to prevent the injury they will more likely be held liable.
However, what happens when an individual (or their survivors) sues the company they work for? Will the company be held liable even if the president of the company or some official company representative was not negligent? For example, what if someone is killed in a workplace accident due to the negligent actions of a co-worker? The answer to this question is most likely yes.
Under the legal doctrine of Respondeat superior, employers are responsible for the actions of their employees as long as the action in question occurred in the course of their employment. Respondeat superior is also referred to as the Master-Servant rule because it holds masters (employers) responsible for the negligent actions of their servants (employees). In order to prove the liability the employee/employer relationship must be established as well as the scope of the employment. Something occurs within the scope of one’s employment if it happens substantially within the time and geographical limits of the employment and, at least partially, was intended to further the employer’s business.
Proving Employer negligence in a wrongful death lawsuit can be a difficult task. Particularly in an inherently dangerous workplace where a judge or jury will probably believe the injured employee assumed a certain amount of risk in simply in taking their job. The attorney bringing the claim must understand all of the facts of the case to be able to pinpoint employer fault–whether in company policy, procedures, or in the actions of other employees. If someone you love was injured or killed at work it is vital that you have the best possible representation.
At the Berniard Law Firm our attorneys will be dedicated to your case. Please give us a call and we would be happy to discuss your options with you. We can be reached Toll-Free at 1-866-574-8005.