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Missouri Supreme Court Upholds Decision in Favor of Timothy Sorrell, a Norfolk Southern Railway Trackman, and Affirms Judgment of $1.5 Million

Timothy Sorrell, a railroad trackman, was injured on November 1, 1999, when the dump truck he was driving for his employer, Norfolk Southern Railway Company, was forced off a county road by a worker driving a truck. Mr. Sorrell’s truck, filled with 15 pounds of asphalt, rolled off the road causing him to sustain neck and back injuries. We tried Mr. Sorrell’s case in the Circuit Court of the City of St. Louis and a jury awarded Mr. Sorrell $1.5 Million in damages on November 7, 2003.

In a major victory for railroad workers nationwide in the U.S. Supreme Court, Schlichter Bogard & Denton was successful in preserving the favorable law on causation of injuries to railroad workers. In a recent ruling, the Supreme Court adopted the arguments made by our firm in ruling that the FELA law for injured railroad workers should not be changed to be more restrictive to those workers.

In the case, Sorrell v. Norfolk Southern Railroad, which was argued by Schlichter Bogard & Denton in the U.S. Supreme Court, the railroad contended that the standard of causation in railroad injury cases should be made more restrictive than it had been interpreted to be for decades. The railroad’s position was supported in a brief on behalf of the American Association of Railroads which argued to the Supreme Court that this case would affect virtually every railroad case in the Untied States. Our position was that this issue was not properly raised by the railroad and that the court should not change the standard of causation. In an opinion dated January 10, 2007, the Supreme Court agreed with our position and maintained the favorable interpretation of injury causation for railroad workers. The case was sent back to the Missouri Courts for further proceedings.

After the Missouri Court of Appeals again affirmed the judgment, the Missouri Supreme Court accepted transfer of the case. The railroad then filed its appeal with the Missouri Supreme Court asking the court to reverse the judgment on the grounds of instructional error. We opposed this and the Missouri Supreme Court agreed, concluding that there was no evidence that would support a finding that Mr. Sorrell was negligent to directly cause his injury and the wording in the jury instruction given by the court could not have affected the outcome of the trial. On March 18, 2008 the Missouri Supreme Court then affirmed the judgment awarded on November 7, 2003 in the amount of $1.5 Million. This ended the effort by the railroad and the American Association of Railroads to gut the FELA law and deny compensation to Tim Sorrell.

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