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Shapiro & Appleton

$950,000 Settlement for Locomotive Engineer with Shoulder and Knee Injuries

WHAT HAPPENED: 

Our client was a locomotive engineer mounting a locomotive on July 28, 2001. While he was mounting the locomotive vertical stairwell, one of the vertical hand holds suddenly broke away from the locomotive, sending him sprawling backwards where he injured his knee and shoulder. Not only was one shoulder injured by impact with the ground, but the other shoulder was injured when our client suddenly was jerked, and had to free his hand hold.

Our client received emergency treatment and later underwent arthroscopic surgery on both his right shoulder and his left knee. Further, our client had a long history of left shoulder problems, including previous hardware in his left shoulder, causing his orthopaedic surgeon, Dr. McKain, to provide the opinion that plaintiff would ultimately need a left shoulder arthroplasty (replacement). Later, the orthopaedist and the family physician, gave opinions that plaintiff could not return to work as a locomotive engineer, and could handle only occasional ten pounds pushing and pulling.

Our client earned about $60,000.00 a year, exclusive of annual fringe benefits and had been employed with the railroad for over 25 years. Our client asserted wage loss till age 65, or theoretically till age 70.

LEGAL STRATEGY:

We retained a vocational expert who provided the opinion that in one vocational scenario, our client could not earn income, and in another potential scenario, our client might be able to earn $14,000 per year. Our client obtained a consultative report from a former FRA official that the failure of the vertical hand hold to retain the plaintiff while mounting the engine constituted a violation of the Federal Safety Appliance Act as well as the Locomotive Inspection Acts. Our client conducted a corporate representative deposition of a railroad supervisor familiar with the repairs done to the locomotive post-incident. Admissions were obtained that a major part of the crack in the hand rail was rusty and likely pre-existing the injury incident.

Several days before court-ordered mediation, the parties arrived at a settlement of $950,000.00.

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