CACI No. 2900. FELA - Essential Factual Elements

Judicial Council of California Civil Jury Instructions (2023 edition)

Download PDF
2900.FELA - Essential Factual Elements
[Name of plaintiff] claims that while [he/she/nonbinary pronoun/[name of
decedent]] was employed by [name of defendant], [[he/she/nonbinary
pronoun] was harmed by/[his/her/nonbinary pronoun] death was caused
by] [name of defendant]’s negligence. To establish this claim, [name of
plaintiff] must prove all of the following:
1. That [name of plaintiff/decedent] was employed by [name of
2. That [name of defendant] was a common carrier by railroad;
3. That [name of defendant] was engaged in interstate commerce;
4. That [name of plaintiff/decedent]’s job duties furthered, or in any
way substantially affected, interstate commerce;
5. That [name of plaintiff/decedent] was acting within the scope of
[his/her/nonbinary pronoun] employment at the time of the
6. That [name of defendant] was negligent;
7. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed; and
8. That [name of defendant]’s negligence was a cause of [name of
plaintiff/decedent]’s [harm/death].
[“Interstate commerce” is commercial activity that crosses more than
one country or state, such as the movement of goods from one state to
New September 2003; Revised June 2011, December 2011
Directions for Use
If the plaintiff is bringing a negligence claim under the Federal Employers’ Liability
Act (FELA) and a claim under the Federal Safety Appliance Act (SAA) or the
Boiler Inspection Act (BIA), the court may wish to add an introductory instruction
that would alert the jury to the difference between the two claims.
Sources and Authority
Federal Employers’ Liability Act. Title 45 United States Code section 51.
“While injured employees in California generally are entitled to workers’
compensation benefits regardless of whether the employer was at fault, those
benefits are not available to railroad employees who suffer on-the-job injuries.
Instead, their right of recovery is governed by FELA, which permits recovery
only if the employer acted negligently.” (Fair v. BNSF Railway Co. (2015) 238
Cal.App.4th 269, 275 [189 Cal.Rptr.3d 150], original italics, internal citations
The FELA is “liberally construed” to further Congress’s remedial goal of
protecting railroad workers. (Consolidated Rail Corp. v. Gottshall (1994) 512
U.S. 532, 543 [114 S.Ct. 2396, 129 L.Ed.2d 427].)
“The elements of a FELA case are: (1) the injury occurred while the plaintiff
was working within the scope of his or her employment with the railroad; (2)
the employment was in furtherance of the railroad’s interstate transportation
business; (3) the employer railroad was negligent; and (4) the employers
negligence played some part in causing the injury for which compensation is
sought under the Act.” (Monarch v. Southern Pacific Transportation Co. (1999)
70 Cal.App.4th 1197, 1210, fn. 10 [83 Cal.Rptr.2d 247], internal citations
“That FELA is to be liberally construed . . . does not mean that it is a workers’
compensation statute. We have insisted that FELA ‘does not make the employer
the insurer of the safety of his employees while they are on duty. The basis of
his liability is his negligence, not the fact that injuries occur.’ (Consolidated
Rail Corp., supra, 512 U.S. at p. 543, internal citations omitted.)
“We note that under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act of 1908 an injured
railroad employee may bring a cause of action without proof of negligence based
on failure of the SAA-mandated safety appliances to function. When such strict
liability does not apply, i.e., the injury does not result from defective equipment
covered by the SAA, the employee must establish common law negligence.”
(Carrillo v. ACF Industries, Inc. (1999) 20 Cal.4th 1158, 1170, fn. 4 [86
Cal.Rptr.2d 832, 980 P.2d 386], internal citations omitted.)
“The standard under FELA is a relaxed one; to prove that a railroad breached its
duty, a ‘plaintiff must show circumstances which a reasonable person would
foresee as creating a potential for harm [and] then show that this breach played
any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury.’ ‘It is well established that
the quantum of evidence required to establish liability in an FELA case is much
less than in an ordinary negligence action.’ If the negligence of the employer
‘played any part, however small, in the injury,’ the employer is liable.” (Fair,
supra, 238 Cal.App.4th at pp. 275-276, internal citation omitted.)
“The test for coverage under the amendment is not whether the employee is
engaged in transportation, but rather whether what he does in any way furthers
or substantially affects transportation.” (Reed v. Pennsylvania Railroad Co.
(1956) 351 U.S. 502, 505 [76 S.Ct. 958, 100 L.Ed. 1366].)
“Where more than one inference can be drawn from the evidence, the question
whether an employee was, at the time of receiving the injury sued for, engaged
in interstate commerce, is for the jury.” (Sullivan v. Matt (1955) 130 Cal.App.2d
134, 139 [278 P.2d 499], internal citations omitted.)
FELA CACI No. 2900
Secondary Sources
Chin et al., Cal. Practice Guide: Employment Litigation, Ch. 15-F, California
Workers’ Compensation Act Preemption, ¶¶ 15:485-15:488, 15:495 (The Rutter
42 California Forms of Pleading and Practice, Ch. 485, Railroads, § 485.35
(Matthew Bender)
1 Matthew Bender Practice Guide: Federal Pretrial Civil Procedure in California,
Ch. 3, Removing a State Court Case to Federal Court, 3.14
CACI No. 2900 FELA

© Judicial Council of California.