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Judge Tosses Engineers' Lawsuit Against Metrolink Video Cameras

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A judge on Thursday dismissed a lawsuit by Metrolink engineers who objected to being videotaped while they work.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin issued his final decision Wednesday in a case in which the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen argued that the commuter rail system infringed on their privacy rights by installing cameras to monitor engineers.

Lavin heard arguments on Metrolink's dismissal motion May 25 and then took the case under submission.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs could not be immediately reached for comment.

The cameras were installed in locomotives and cab cars — which are in front when a train is being pushed by a locomotive — in the wake of the September 2008 Chatsworth train disaster.

The accident killed 25 people, and more than 100 were injured when a Metrolink train collided with a freight train on the same track.

The Metrolink engineer, a contract employee, was texting at the time and had just run a red light, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

The NTSB is pushing for all passenger rail systems to install video systems similar to Metrolink's.

The engineers and trainmen sued Metrolink in state and federal court, alleging the rail system went too far without negotiating with the union.

Metrolink engineers work for Amtrak and have a collective bargaining agreement with that system.

Metrolink attorneys maintained the camera issue could have been raised in the labor contract that engineers signed with Amtrak last year. Still, plaintiffs attorney Jeff Dingwall said the cameras were installed without any warning to the engineers.

In court papers, Metrolink attorneys say the engineers failed to show how the cameras invade their privacy even though they show them using bottles to urinate. Locomotives do not have toilets, though cab cars do.

"Plaintiffs cannot seriously argue that urinating into a bottle while operating a multimillion-dollar piece of machinery during one's work shift is a private act protectable under any legal theory," Metrolink's court papers state.

Last July, U.S. District Judge Percy Anderson threw the lawsuit out of federal court. The union is appealing that ruling.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

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