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Schlichter Bogard & Denton Obtains $12.5 Million Jury Verdict for Injured Railroad Worker

A Jefferson County, Missouri jury awarded $12.5 million to a former railroad worker on January 28, 2014 following a 1½ week-long trial. In Bolen v. BNSF Ry.Co., Case #12JECC00744, Michael Bolen, 51, of Cape Girardeau, was injured on Memorial Day 2012 while switching rail freight cars in Crystal City for BNSF Railway Company. He reportedly tripped and fell over a large rock as he was walking between two sets of railroad tracks and the train ran over his right leg and left foot. He was airlifted from the scene to Barnes Jewish Hospital in St. Louis where he underwent surgery to amputate his right leg below the knee and to debride his damaged left heel. Following another round of surgeries, he was fitted with a prosthetic limb and underwent physical and vocational rehabilitation. At trial, BNSF denied liability, alleging that physical evidence suggested that Bolen had improperly attempted to cross the tracks on the ground or on the railcar and fell onto the tracks. The railroad claimed that if Bolen had tripped on the rock, it was open and obvious and Bolen was himself negligent for not avoiding it. BNSF also alleged that Bolen failed to seek alternative employment with the railroad. Bolen, a former Marine who hired on with BNSF only eight years earlier, sought compensation for his future medical treatment, lost wages, pain and disfigurement. Following two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a unanimous verdict for Bolen. According to Bolen’s attorney, Nelson G. Wolff of Schlichter Bogard & Denton:

“Mike was a loyal and dedicated a railroad employee, just as he was when serving his country. The railroad exposed him to needless danger when it violated its own safety rules prohibiting the use of oversized rock in its walkways. This tripping hazard was particularly dangerous because of its proximity to moving trains. The railroad’s denial of responsibility and accusation that Mike had falsely reported the cause of injury added insult to his significant injury and disfigurement. This verdict restores his dignity and affords him the necessary medical treatment recommended by his doctors.”

The case was tried before Circuit Judge Nathan B. Stewart and is reportedly the largest personal injury verdict in the history of Jefferson County. For more information, contact Nelson G. Wolff or Jerome J. Schlichter at 314-621-6115. The case is styled as Bolen v. BNSF Ry.Co., Case #12JECC00744.

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