CASE RESULT UPDATE:
Prior to a jury trial scheduled for a "damages only" determination, the parties arrived at a confidential settlement in 2016 resolving all remaining issues.
After three years of legal wrangling, the tides of justice are finally turning back in favor of the now-deceased CSX railroad switchman and his legal estate in a FELA case against CSX railroad. The Estate of Winston Payne, a former CSX switchman who lost his life to lung cancer, obtained an 8.6 million dollar verdict from a Knoxville, Tennessee jury in November 2010. CSX moved for a mistrial or new trial, despite 11 separate jury verdict findings in favor of the Estate. Shockingly, the trial judge granted CSX a new trial on all issues. However, weeks before the second trial, a second Knoxville Circuit Court judge completely dismissed the case on a summary judgment motion.
Rick Shapiro, counsel for the plaintiff, appealed that decision and argued in front of the Tennessee Court of Appeals. Rick's argument that the $8.6 million jury verdict should stand was convincing. The Court decided that the estate Mr. Payne should receive the original $8.6 million jury verdict, unless the trial judge now determines that the verdict is contrary to the evidence presented. With post-verdict interest, the jury award is likely to be northward of $11 million, once all appeals are exhausted.
BACKGROUND ON THIS EPIC LEGAL BATTLE:
Mr. Payne worked for CSX railroad for four decades - from 1962 to 2002. During his career, Mr. Payne was exposed to asbestos, diesel exhaust fumes, and radiation, including enriched uranium and plutonium. In 2005, he was diagnosed with lung cancer and had to endure 43 painstaking rounds of chemotherapy and 44 radiation treatments.
In 2007, Mr. Payne hired Rick and the legal team at Shapiro & Appleton& Duffan. Rick filed a claim under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (i.e. FELA) against CSX railroad. The lawsuit alleged that CSX was negligent for exposing Mr. Payne to a host of toxic chemicals and fumes and violated a myriad of safety regulations that were enacted specifically to reduce the risk of harm to railroad employees.
Tragically, Mr. Payne passed away before this case went to trial. His wife was the estate's representative at trial. After one of the longest civil jury trials in Knoxville in over a decade, the jury returned an $8.6 million dollar verdict, finding that CSX violated a bevy of safety regulations, and was negligent in exposing him to the toxic substances.
The final chapter of this multi-year saga has not yet been written, but the Court of Appeals' decision indicates that justice be restored. Richard Shapiro has worked on this case for seven years. His tireless efforts, along with Knoxville attorney Sidney Gilreath, continues, as CSX may further appeal the ruling to the Tennessee Supreme Court.
During late June, 2015, the Tennessee Supreme Court issued a 47 page written opinion affirming the original jury verdict that CSX exposed Winston Payne to asbestos, radioactive uranium and plutonium, and diesel fumes, and that CSX was legally responsible for causing his lung cancer. The Court ruled that a new jury trial is necessary solely to determine his legal damages for the 4 ½ years of suffering he endured and the Estate is now seeking 15 Million Dollars for these harms.