Operating Department Employes Represented by Kaplan Law Corporation

The cases listed below are a small cross-sampling of various operating department FELA cases our firm has settled against the major railroad companies:

An Engineer from California who sustained injuries from being exposed to diesel fumes while the helper unit he was on board stopped in a tunnel. The railroad claimed that he was not really injured, that he had pre-existing asthma and that he had violated various safety rules. Prior to our representation, he was offered only a few thousand dollars. The case was eventually settled during the first day of trial for several hundred thousands of dollars, plus the payment of all medical bills (there was an agreement not to publicize the specific amount of the settlement). To our understanding, at the time, this was the largest diesel inhalation settlement paid by this particular carrier and possibly by any of the carriers and may still be. Additionally, we were informed by the our client's General Chairman that, as a result of the amount of money being paid to exposed railroad workers (trainmen and engineers) represented by our firm that the railroad had decided to start furnishing masks and oxygen kits to trainmen and engineers in the San Joaquin area.

A BNSF conductor was fatally injured when the train he was riding in rear-ended another BNSF train that was stopped. BNSF contended that Plaintiff and his engineer were either asleep at the time of the accident or totally inattentive and, therefore, they were the entire cause of the fatal accident. Additionally, the railroad contended that if any damages were to be awarded, it should be an extremely small amount because the children were near the age of majority. Again, through the use of extensive discovery which involved the taking of many depositions and the utilization of various expert witnesses, we were able to prove, among other things, that the signal systems malfunctioned, that the dispatchers were negligent and that there were certain defects in the locomotive unit itself. Just prior to trial, the case was settled for $960,000.00 including a significant structured settlement for the widow as well as her children.

An engineer from California, who suffered a herniated disc when he slipped and fell while MUing units. It was the railroad's contention that he was performing a routine and simple job and fell only because he was not paying attention to what he was doing. The railroad produced a videotape of women MUing units to attempt to counter the plaintiff's contentions that MUing was awkward and difficult work when one was required to perform it on unlevel and especially slippery surfaces. Through the use of extensive discovery and the utilization of expert testimony, we were able to prove that the placement of the receptacles in different locations on different units was a violation of the Safety Appliance Act. The case was settled in excess of $800,000.00 including a structured settlement that paid him in excess of $3,000.00 per month for life plus the payment of all medical bills.

An engineer from California suffered a herniated cervical disc when the train he was riding in collided with another Southern Pacific train that was making a reverse movement onto the same track that his train was occupying. The railroad wrote up the his crew for violating the "restricted speed" and "delayed in the block" rules. Again, through the use of extensive investigation, statement taking, deposing of witnesses and the presentation of expert testimony, we were able to demonstrate that the dispatcher was in error for giving the other train permission, under the circumstances, to make a reverse movement and that the engineer and his crew had not violated the restricted speed rules. The case was settled confidentially in the very high six figure range with a very large structured settlement which offered him and his family lifetime financial security which brought the overall value of his settlement well into the high seven figures.

A switchman from Phoenix, Arizona injured his knee when he hopped off a car during a switching operation. It was the carrier's contention that he was at fault because he jumped off of the car while it was moving at too high a rate of speed and he was not paying attention to the ground surface where he detrained. Additionally, he underwent exploratory arthroscopic knee surgery that demonstrated he had a blister under the knee cap. The defendant contended that they had never seen such an injury caused by trauma and that it was not serious enough to have rendered him unfit for duty as long as it did. The defendant also had surveillance films of the Plaintiff. His case was settled in the extremely high limits of the six-figure range in addition to the railroad paying in to the Railroad Retirement Board and crediting him for the months that he lost while he was off of work.

A conductor from California suffered a twisting injury to his knee when he fell from a railroad car. The railroad contended that he suffered a relatively minor injury to his knee and underwent a minor and unnecessary arthroscopic surgery. More significantly, the railroad contended that the Plaintiff was perfectly able to work but that the only reason why he was unable to do so was because he was incarcerated in jail because of various drug convictions. Through the utilization of expert testimony and the ability to convince the Judge that a Safety Appliance Act Jury Instruction should be given, the case was ultimately settled for $423,000.00.

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