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Trial Winning Streak in FELA Cases Continues for Schlichter Bogard & Denton with Verdicts Totaling $2.75 Million

Three more victories during a seven month period continued a long trial winning streak for Schlichter Bogard & Denton, LLP in cases brought on behalf of injured railroad workers under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA). The judgments were entered on February 6 in Currie v. Union Pacific Railroad, St. Clair County, Illinois Circuit Court # 10-L-206; on July 16 in Rhoden v. Union Pacific, Circuit Court of St. Louis County, No. 11SL-CC02254; and on August 7 in Host v. BNSF Railway Co., Circuit Court of Cass County, No. 11CA-OV 03019.

In the first trial, Schlichter Bogard Denton attorneys represented a former track maintenance worker who claimed low back injuries sustained as a result of cumulative spine trauma during 20 years of service as a welder throughout Illinois. Although Union Pacific claimed that the injuries were due to age and smoking, attorney Nelson G. Wolff presented evidence showing that crew size reductions and increased overtime hours put workers at an increased risk of injury. Testimony revealed that the railroad put profits over worker safety. After 1½ weeks of trial, the jury returned a unanimous verdict for Currie in the sum of $1.05 million, one of the largest verdicts ever in a cumulative trauma case. The railroad had only offered $200,000 before trial.

In the second trial, Wolff represented a Union Pacific carman who sustained low back injuries when the utility vehicle he was driving in a N. Little Rock, Arkansas rail yard collided with a freight car after his foot slipped off the accelerator pedal. The railroad blamed the worker for not keeping control of the vehicle and disputed the nature and extent of injury. However, evidence introduced at trial showed that the pedal was worn and lacked a non-slip surface. The evidence also showed that the seat back cushion had been installed incorrectly, such that the worker’s back struck an exposed metal bar during the collision. Medical experts testified that the minor trauma was sufficient to cause a spinal disc herniation but that surgeries were unsuccessful in allowing a return to carman work. The railroad attempted to mitigate its liability through evidence of its vocational rehabilitation program. However, Wolff showed that no job had ever actually been offered to the injured worker and that no one had ever been given a job after a jury trial. After 1½ weeks of trial, the jury returned a verdict against the railroad for $725,000 and the court assessed additional $10,000 in interest and court costs, which have been collected in full.

In the third case, following a seven day long trial, a Cass County jury ordered BNSF to pay Thomas Host $906,975 to compensate him for leg injuries he sustained after slipping on a locomotive while working as a conductor in the Argentine Kansas City rail yard. The railroad denied that it negligently created a slipping hazard and accused Host of failing to keep a careful lookout. Host suffered a broken ankle and had four surgeries which left him unable to return to work. With only three years of service, the railroad denied any obligation to compensate him for the loss of an entire career and claimed Host could have obtained a railroad management position had he participated in the company’s vocational program. Before trial, BNSF only offered to pay $100,000 to settle the case. Host’s attorney, Nelson G. Wolff, rejected that offer. At trial, evidence showed that mechanical work had been done on the locomotive but oil had not been cleaned up from the walkway because the engine was needed for a train that was running behind schedule. The presence of oil violated federal safety laws, but was not reported by BNSF in the injury report it submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration. BNSF’s denial of responsibility at trial perpetuated this cover-up. Additional evidence showed that the railroad “vocational program” was actually part of the claims management strategy. The verdict is the largest known personal injury verdict in Cass County, Missouri.

According to Founding Partner Jerome Schlichter, “These trial results are significant victories for railroad workers. They send a strong message to railroads that we will continue to fight them in court when their disregard for safety causes disabling injuries.”

Schlichter Bogard & Denton is a unique national law firm that represents injury victims, including railroad and maritime workers, who sustain injuries from unsafe working conditions. Our attorneys are dedicated to helping workers obtain the fair compensation for their injuries and future medical needs they deserve. If you have any questions about your legal compensation rights, please call Schlichter Bogard & Denton toll-free at 1-800-USE-LAWS (1-800-873-5297).

The choice of a lawyer is an important decision and should not be based solely on advertisements. The cases discussed do not predict outcomes in future cases. Past results afford no guarantee of future results and every case is different and must be judged on its own merits.

 

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