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Railroads Try New End Run Around FELA Jury Verdicts: Motions For Verdict Offset Due To Railroad Retirement Collateral Source Payments

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The new strategy for railroads in railroad worker personal injury cases (FELA cases), is to try to reduce the sums juries are requiring them to pay by filing legal motions that ask judges to give them a "setoff" or "credit" for the amount of money the railroad has paid to the Railroad
Retirement Board (RRB) for the employer’s portion of RRB Tier II benefits (paid in the past by the railroad to the RRB). Since early in the 20th century, Social Security and RRB benefits have been what is known as "collateral sources" of income/benefits which courts have felt were earned by the employee and paid to the employee for reasons unrelated to any personal injury lawsuits-where the worker sues the railroad for a persona injury at work (FELA/Federal Employers Liability Act suits). Since the worker earned the RRB benefits through years of
faithful service to the railroad company, and also contributed to a portion of the RRB benefits personally through payroll deductions and since the worker would then qualify for the benefits based upon his or her age and physical condition, regardless of whether a lawsuit had been
filed, courts felt it would be unfair for juries to consider the worker’s RRB benefits’ due to a work related injury.

Despite over 60 years of court decisions holding that the amount of money a jury awarded an injured railroad worker should not be reduced by the worker’s receipt (or even qualification for) RRB benefits, the railroads are currently trying to get courts to ignore this precedent and reduce railroad worker jury verdicts by the amount of money the railroad contributed to the railroad worker’s RRB pension.

We recently won a case for a 60 year old maintenance of way rail worker in North Carolina. After the jury returned the verdict in our favor, CSX filed a motion asking the judge to reduce the jury verdict by over $7,000.00 which was the sum our client received in RRB Tier II
benefits while he was receiving an occupational disability (due to the same accident). After both sides submitted briefs to the judge and appeared at a hearing, the judge granted CSX’s motion and reduced our client’s jury verdict/recovery as the railroad had asked.

Needless to say, we quickly appealed to the North Carolina (NC) Court of Appeals and after numerous briefs and oral argument, the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed the trial court judge, deciding that our client’s verdict had been inappropriately reduced by the trial
judge.

Click here to read the full article discussing this NC Appeals court ruling in favor of the railroad worker.

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Our law firm has a long history of representing railroad victims, including conductors, engineers, track maintenance, carman and all crafts, as well as those suffering wrongful death of family member due to railroad accidents/diseases/injuries. Shapiro, Cooper Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm is based in Virginia practicing primarily in the southeastern U.S. and handles only injury law, including car, truck, railroad, and medical negligence cases and more. The firm’s website is: www.hsinjurylaw.com , the firm edits two injury law blogs: Virginia Beach Injuryboard & Norfolk Injuryboard, and also hosts a video library covering many FAQ’s on personal injury subjects.