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Schlichter Bogard & Denton Continues String of Courtroom Victories in 2007 on Behalf of Injured Railroad Workers Under the FELA

In January, Partner Nelson G. Wolff won a verdict in the City of St. Louis, Shepherd v. Union Pacific, on behalf of a conductor who fell and suffered foot injuries while walking down the steps inside his locomotive. The engine, like many engines in service in North America, was not equipped with hand rails or grab irons. The railroad claimed that since the FRA did not require handrails to be installed, it did not need to install any device to protect workers, even though it knew that some workers would slip and could avoid injury if a handhold were provided. The railroad also accused its employee of causing his own injuries by failing to keep a careful lookout. The jury’s verdict exceeded $700,000.

In May, Schlichter Bogard & Denton attorney Richard Zalasky won a $600,000 judgment in Heath v. BNSF Railway Company in Amarillo, Texas on behalf of a locomotive engineer who had suffered spine injuries — cumulative trauma — as a result of long term wear and tear due to rough riding locomotives and poorly maintained track. Local courthouse observers noted that it was the largest verdict ever in a civil case involving personal injuries and, nationally, it was one of the first such cases to successfully prosecute a railroad for cumulative spine trauma to train service employees. Several years ago, the firm obtained a verdict for a locomotive engineer in an Arkansas case in Morrison v. Union Pacific involving cumulative trauma of the hands/arms- carpal tunnel syndrome in the amount of $850,000. This engineer remains working on the railroad and the verdict has been paid. Schlichter Bogard & Denton decided years ago to take on what some feel are difficult cumulative trauma cases and have devoted substantial resources to digging for evidence of wrongdoing by railroads to prove the cases.

In August, Schlichter Bogard & Denton obtained a $1.3 million verdict in York v. Union Pacific for a 55 year old conductor who suffered neck and back injuries when trying to operate a track switch. The trial attorney, Richard Zalasky, uncovered evidence that the railroad, in an attempt to cut costs and increase profits, had eliminated maintenance crews whose duty it was to maintain and lubricate the switch and that these budget cuts created unsafe conditions.

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