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| Shapiro, Appleton & Washburn

8.6 Million Verdict Awarded in Wrongful Death Suit
Exposure to asbestos, diesel fumes and radiation can be a recipe for disaster. A former railroad worker found that out the hard way, ultimately losing his life to cancer after a five-year battle. The exposure and subsequent severe health problems did not go unnoticed however, as his estate was awarded a jury verdict of $8.6 million in a FELA wrongful death case against CSXT railroad, a Virginia corporation. The railroad worker spent his 40 year career as a brakeman/switchman with L & N/CSX, where he was situated mainly in and around Knoxville, Tennessee. His tasks included handling cargo and scrap metal from nuclear facilities and regularly switching cars in and out of a toxic radioactive dump. The dump was later was declared a Superfund site and required 15 years of cleanup. He also worked on asbestos-laden locomotives and inhaled diesel exhaust on switching engines for decades.

Jury Trial
The jury trial, which took place in Knoxville, Tennessee, lasted over two weeks. The jury ultimately deliberated for a full day before returning the $8.6 million verdict. CSXT had offered no more than $250,000 in settlement talks. They argued that that cigarette smoking was the sole cause of the railroad worker’s cancer and that there was no valid evidence of the amount or dose of radioactive contamination, asbestos, or diesel exhaust during his work. The railroad worker’s attorney called 16 witnesses, including a number of expert witnesses, utilized FOIA requests and issued subpoenas to prove his client’s case.

Post-Verdict Motions
The post-verdict motions by the railroad attorneys are currently pending. CSX is arguing that the verdict must be reduced by 5.4 million dollars, thus dropping the verdict to 3.2 million dollars. Their argument is that there should be a reduction because the worker was held to be 62% contributorily negligent. However, pursuant to the railroad injury/disease law, the FELA, violation of railroad safety statutes or regulations bar reducing a verdict for contributory fault of a worker. As a result, the railroad worker’s attorney is battling to have the court enter the full 8.6 million verdict.

The railroad worker and his family suffered immensely as a result of his exposure to carcinogens at work. That railroad worker can never get his life back. However, after his attorney spent nearly four years working on the case, at least there is now some measure of closure and justice for his widow.

One Comment

  1. Gravatar for Gerry McGill
    Gerry McGill

    The FELA and the Jones Act, which covers seamens' injury and death claims are the only two Federal Acts which allow an injured employee to sue his employer for his employer's negligence which caused injury or the death of that employee. All other persons and claims which are covered by various workers compensation schemes prohibit suits by an employee against a negligent employer.

    Workers Compensation benefits are always less generous than the benefits under the FELA or the Jones Act and rarely compensate the injured employee for the real losses sustained. This is because Workers Compensation Laws were never intended to be for the benefit of the worker. They were devised to protect the Employer against lawsuits.

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