Steve Groves’ hauls in another win after a jury in Ray County, Missouri recently returned a verdict for an injured railroad worker of $750,000.00. The responsible railroad, BNSF, fought the case hard making an offer of only $100,000.00, which Groves Powers LLC declined deeming the amount unjust. The railroad worker had returned to work after missing 15 months with a back injury.
The client injured his back on a switch stand derail while putting the derail “on”. Groves Powers acquired evidence that BNSF installed the wrong sized derail and it was not functioning as intended .The railroad hotly contested liability, stating there was nothing wrong with the derail, and that the plaintiff “should have used smooth, easy pressure” and watched the derail while lining it so he could have seen that it was going to hit the rail and avoid the accident.
Three managers and a track inspector inspected the derail shortly after the injury and testified there was nothing wrong with it and it was working properly. A video taken by a claim agent at the inspection showed the superintendent lining the derail, who also said it was working fine. The video, however, only showed the superintendent, and did not show whether the derail was hitting the rail or not.
Two conductors on safety committee inspected the derail after the injury and they testified it was not working properly and was hitting the side of the rail, just as the injured worker claimed. If jimmied, however, the derail would come over the top and onto the rail. Provided this information, Groves Powers LLC submitted two FRA regulation violations 213.205(c) and (d) and also a negligence claim.
BNSF took more than 20 depositions, subpoenaed videos of the client exercising, acquired a court order to go onto his property to photograph his motorcycles and ATV’s, and downloaded his social media profiles. They referenced his activities during his time away from work to claim that the client could have returned to work sooner. They also claimed that back sprains ten years ago were the cause of his problems.
The client had back surgery and missed approximately 15 months from work. He was released with no restrictions but was missing some time from work due to back pain related to sitting.
In spite of BNSF’s various arguments, the jury found violation of FRA regulations regarding derails and made a separate finding that BNSF was 85% at fault for plaintiff’s injuries. Groves Powers’ associate Emery Reusch and local counsel Farrell Hockemeier were instrumental in the verdict. The verdict was for $750,000.00. Judgment was entered on the full amount of verdict due to the FRA regulation violations.
Steven L. Groves is a plaintiff’s attorney successfully handling FELA claims for 25 years. If you or anyone you know has been injured while working for a railroad company, contact Steve for a free consultation to see if you may have a FELA claim.
Contact – Steven L. Groves
Contact – Emery A. Reusch