three United States Supreme Court cases that involved releases and subsequent FELA
claims: Callen v. Pennsylvania R.R. Co., 332 U.S. 625, 92 L. Ed. 242, 68 S. Ct. 296
(1948); Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington R.R. Co. v. Schubert, 224 U.S. 603, 56 L.
Ed. 911, 32 S. Ct. 589 (1912); and Duncan v. Thompson, 315 U.S. 1, 86 L. Ed. 575, 62 S.
Ct. 422 (1942).
In Callen, the plaintiff sued for injuries he sustained in a railroad accident after he
signed a general release agreement that waived any claim for injuries he sustained in the
accident in exchange for a cash payment. Callen, 332 U.S. at 626-27, 92 L. Ed. at 246,
68 S. Ct. at 298.. The Court upheld the validity of the release because it was “not a
device to exempt from liability but [was] a means of compromising a claimed liability
*** .” Callen, 332 U.S. at 631, 92 L. Ed. at 246, 68 S. Ct. at 298. The Court recognized
that section 55 is not violated by a release that settles a “controversy” with regard to the
employer’s liability and the extent of that liability for a particular accident or exposure.
Callen, 332 U.S. at 631, 92 L. Ed. at 246, 68 S. Ct. at 298-99.
In Schubert, the plaintiff contributed a portion of his salary to a “relief fund” until
he was injured on the job. Schubert, 224 U.S. at 606, 56 L. Ed. at 914, 32 S. Ct. at 589.
He received benefits from the fund, but then filed a FELA claim for damages. Schubert,
224 U.S. at 608, 56 L. Ed. at 914, 32 S. Ct. at 590. The railroad argued that the plaintiff's
claims were barred because he agreed, as a member of the relief fund, that if he collected
from the fund, he would release all personal injury claims against the railroad. Schubert,
224 U.S. at 606-608, 56 L. Ed. at 914, 32 S. Ct. at 589-90. The Supreme Court ruled that
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