Litigation: Railroad Operations, Litigation, and Regulatory Compliance Group


Leonard O’Brien represents some of the nation’s largest rail equipment owners and manufacturers in a wide variety of areas including derailment and crisis response, litigation and arbitration involving rail equipment, and regulatory compliance. Leonard O’Brien attorneys have also represented Class I and short line railroads in litigation commenced under the Federal Employers Liability Act (“FELA”), litigation arising from derailments and crossing accidents, and in administrative claims for alleged violations of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (“OSHA”).

Our attorneys regularly assist clients following rail related catastrophic events. We believe that immediate involvement of defense counsel is critical to protecting the interests of our clients. We provide around the clock advice and counsel concerning initial crisis response and evidence preservation issues, expert retention, and investigations by FRA, NTSB, and TSB. Early involvement of counsel is also key to achieving positive results for our clients in litigation that are in line with client goals ranging from early resolution to trial. 

Leonard O’Brien attorneys have a deep understanding of the regulations governing the rail industry, including regulations covering rail equipment, railroad operations, inspections, reporting, and the transportation of hazardous materials. This understanding and expertise makes Leonard O’Brien ideally situated to handle the complex interplay of various civil and statutory laws that apply to all aspects of rail operation.

Leonard O’Brien is willing to negotiate alternative billing arrangements that are uniquely tailored to our clients and to the circumstances involved in each matter on which we are engaged. Our extensive knowledge and experience in the rail industry allows us to effectively represent our clients on complex matters in a cost efficient manner.

Representative cases handled by Leonard O’Brien attorneys include:
  • Represented locomotive manufacturer in litigation involving a train derailment and diesel fuel fire. Obtained the preemption-based dismissal of locomotive manufacturer.
  • Represented tank car owner in litigation involving a train derailment and chlorine release. Established that all claims against the tank car owner were preempted because the tank car at issue fully complied with all applicable regulations, and obtained voluntary dismissal of all claims against the tank car owner.
  • Represented railroad in litigation involving a train derailment, ethanol release, and fire. Obtained favorable settlements to most lawsuits with minimal or no litigation. One of two remaining lawsuits was favorably settled one week prior to trial, and the final lawsuit was favorably settled just prior to receiving the jury’s verdict following a five week jury trial. 
  • Represented major rail equipment manufacturer in $800 million contract negotiation.
  • Represented railroad in major derailment securing dismissal of all claims based on federal preemption. Argued appeal of summary judgment dismissal before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.  See In re Derailment Cases, 416 F.3d 787 (8th Cir. 2005). 
  • Represented rail car owner in litigation involving a third party’s fall from the top of a rail car. Obtained dismissal of all claims against the rail car owner based on federal preemption.  See Feldman v.CSX et al, 31 A.D.3d 698, 821 N.Y.S.2d 85 (2006).
  • Represented numerous railroads and rail equipment owners and manufacturers in contract disputes, crossing and FELA cases, NTSB hearings and party participation in the NTSB and TSB process, and FRA matters and investigations, as well as OSHA retaliation claims and litigation, and employment claims and litigation throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Other representative experience and expertise includes:
  • Active involvement in emerging issues related to the transportation of petroleum crude oil by rail and recent derailments, including litigation and regulatory developments. 
  • Compliance counseling regarding FRA and PHMSA regulations, and assistance with government and internal investigations related to these regulations. 
  • Risk management counseling to clients in relation to various products to identify, quantify, minimize and manage product liability. 
  • Risk management counseling to clients in relation to employment concerns, labor issues, employee termination and discipline.