On Friday June 26, 2015 at 8:00 p.m., after a five day trial, a St. Francois County, Missouri jury returned a verdict for an injured railroad worker for $4,400,000.00. The railroad had offered $200,000 to settle the case.
Mr. Hays was working for BNSF Railway Company as a contract employee operating a weld truck with a BNSF rail replacement gang along the Mississippi river a few miles north of Ste. Genevieve. He was driving the weld truck with a remote control device while standing on a platform on the side of the truck. Rocks from a cut/bluff next to the tracks had fallen and were piled up next to the tracks in violation of the railroad’s clearance standards. Mr. Hays did not realize the rocks were a hazard until it was too late and when they hit the bottom of his platform he was knocked off and drug down the tracks. Mr. Hays suffered internal injuries including a fractured hip and pelvis. He also had ongoing nerve pain in his left leg and foot. He is unable to do the heavy work he had done before his injury but was able to return to office work eight months after his injury and continued to work through his trial. He also suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and depression due to his pain and the limitations from his injuries.
Mr. Hays filed suit under the Federal Employers Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. 51, which is known as the FELA. BNSF denied that it had done anything wrong and blamed the incident on Hays. It also denied that Hays had ongoing problems related to the incident. The jury found BNSF Railway Company 100% at fault and also found that the railroad violated a Federal Railroad Administration regulation requiring handrails on the platform.
According to Steven Groves, lead counsel for Mr. Hays, “For over two years the railroad has been fighting to avoid responsibility and I am glad that the jury did the right thing.”