What Happened: Our client was a veteran Norfolk Southern Conductor in Tennessee with over 20 years service to the railroad. One night at an industry he was forced to move a train car drawhead, which was slewed to the side, so that it would not pose a danger to other crews attempting to couple to the car. Our client hurt his back trying to move this misaligned coupler. Our client and one member of his crew confirmed that this coupler was not working as it should likely due to rust and poor maintenance. Our suffered permanent pain and restrictions to his ability to do his old job. He was medically disabled from his regular job. He underwent epidural steroid injections into his back as prescribed by a sports medicine surgeon. Ultimately, he had to have a decompression laminectomy on his back. The case was favorably settled after several key videotaped depositions of various supervisors that the railroad offered to defeat or minimize his claim.
Key Legal Strategy: Of course, the Railroad denied any responsibility and even blamed the Conductor for his own injury. Norfolk Southern held an investigation against our client claiming that he changed his statements about how he was injured and that he was not following proper procedures when hurt. Other railroad supervisors from the mechanical department stated that there was nothing wrong with the drawhead in question. The railroad had disposed of the car in question, but later produced a similar coupler on a similar car, but the "similar" drawhead was cleaned and greased in a way that was vastly different to the original drawhead. We forced the railroad mechanical supervisors to admit in depositions that they never greased any drawheads except when a car was already in a repair shop for some other reason. We argued that realistically these drawheads could be left for years out in the elements without ever being maintenanced.
Court/Date: U.S. District Court/Tennessee- November, 2004
Staff: John C., attorney; Theresa L. Martin, paralegal; Vera VanOverstraeten, legal assistant; Charlie Cunningham, investigator