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Shapiro & Appleton

$600,000 Award for Rail Yard Worker's Rotator Cuff Injury

WHAT HAPPENED: Our client was a yard conductor involved in moving a locomotive and passenger car in the rail yard beside Union Station when he was hurt on February 8, 1999. While guiding the movement of the two train cars from an open vestibule, a defect in the locomotive braking system caused the cars to emergency stop, crashing plaintiff against the metal walls while he attempted to retain a hand hold. The plaintiff was briefly unconscious, and suffered a head injury, bruised ribs, and right shoulder injury which right shoulder later required both arthroscopic and open rotator cuff repair.

In late 2000, our client's treating surgeon gave the opinion that plaintiff could never return to his yard conductor job, due to significant limitations in range of motion of the right extremity. During litigation, the railroad employer admitted fault and stipulated there was no contributory negligence on our client.

Our client earned $58,000.00 a year during his 25-year career with the railroad. The extent of impairment and plaintiff's wage loss were the main issues at trial, and the railroad claimed it would "accomodate" our client by altering one of more jobs it claimed were available to him. Ultimately, our firm called a total of five medical and economic experts on behalf of our client.

KEY STRATEGY:
Our firm called rank-and-file workers who testified at trial that in reality this railroad typically does not accommodate workers, and that plaintiff would lose all of the substantial job seniority developed over his 25-year career as a conductor. Particularly, when defendant did not offer its written job descriptions as evidence, plaintiff offered two of the railroad's job descriptions and argued that the railroad was trying to hide evidence of the fact that our client was not qualified for the positions with his limited transferable skills as well as doctor's restrictions.

Further, our client mistrusted these "job opportunities", and he testified that railroad hired investigators had been staking out his residence out for a four-year period leading up to trial. The railroad attorney questioned plaintiff extensively about intimate details of his physical activities outside his home (which obviously were a result of surveillance),but on objection by our attorneys, the Court disallowed the railroad from offering the actual tapes into evidence because surveillance was never disclosed on the Court's strict pre-trial disclosure order, and because Plaintiff had admitted virtually everything that was shown in the surveillance videotapes.

$600,000

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