What Happened

Our client was working as a railroad conductor in the western part of Virginia when he was assigned the task of throwing a track switch called a derail device or derailer. The procedure that the railroad then required employees to follow when operating a derailer placed extreme stress on a worker’s lower back, and our client did suffer a back injury while following the procedure that his employer specified.

Our client sought treatment from an orthopedic surgeon who placed him under lifting and pushing restrictions that disqualified him from continuing to work as a railroad conductor. While our client could still do light work, he lost significant earnings when he had to give up his job as a conductor.

The question we answered in our client’s favor was whether the railroad was responsible for causing his back injury. Because the required procedure for operating a derailer was not ergonomic, it constituted an improper work procedure.


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Key Legal Strategy

We conducted an investigation on our client’s behalf and discovered internal memoranda issued following his back injury that documented the ways in which the railroad changed its required method for operating a derail device. The timing and content of the memos reflected a recognition by the railroad that it had previously instructed workers to perform an improper work procedure.

Despite clearly being in the wrong, the railroad at first refused to engage in serious settlement negotiations. We subsequently filed a federal lawsuit in Tennessee, and  the railroad did agree to settle with our client shortly after being informed of the filing.

We have successfully represented railroad workers and their families for more than 35 years. To learn more about our general approach to personal injury cases involving back injuries, click here.

Court and Date: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, March 2005

Staff: Richard N. Shapiro, attorney