Car and Tractor Trailer Collision Case, North Carolina Jury Verdict over $1 Million Dollars
Wife and husband were rear-ended by a tractor trailer on Interstate 77 in Surry County, North Carolina. They were knocked into a guardrail causing a second impact. There were no significant visible injuries, however, the husband developed low back pain. He had two prior low back surgeries, a microdiscectomy and a fusion. It was eventually determined that he required another fusion and would be unable to return to work as an automotive technician although he had a second job teaching accounting which he could do on a limited basis. In spite of the prior surgeries, we were able to reach a mediated settlement of the husband's claim for $500,000.00.
The wife's injuries turned out to be more complicated. She soon experienced tremors in her right, dominant hand. After receiving numerous contradictory medical advice, she went to a pain center in Baltimore which coordinated her future care. She underwent two cervical fusions and thoracic outlet surgery, but none of these procedures resolved her tremor. Finally, a fourth brachial plexus surgery eliminated the tremor although she was left with considerable residual pain. Defendants attempted to argue that her treatment was essentially unnecessary since her pain never resolved. Based on that position, mediation was unsuccessful and the case went to trial in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. After a ten day trial, she received a verdict of $1,023,197.20.
Railroad Worker Occupational Injury FELA Case, $1.5 Million Dollar Jury Verdict in Baltimore, Maryland
The Plaintiff began working for the railroad in approximately 1970. The Plaintiff was required to work in CSX's yards in Baltimore on large mainline ballast, even though CSX's own rules required that the railroad use small walking ballast in its yards where brakemen, conductors and other railroad workers walked and worked. Also, until 1990, the Plaintiff was required to get on and off of moving railroad cars and locomotives onto and from the large mainline ballast. The Plaintiff presented evidence that other brakemen/conductors had complained to CSX about having to work and walk on the large mainline ballast in CSX's yards. These written complaints went back almost 20 years and were made by CSX brakemen/conductors working in CSX's yards in Jacksonville, Florida, Hamlet, North Carolina, as well as, complaints from co-workers in the same yards in Baltimore where the Plaintiff had to work. The Plaintiff developed an early onset of osteoarthritis in both of his knees from his work activities, including working and walking on the large mainline ballast. The Plaintiff had left knee surgery in 2000 when he was 51 years old. He also underwent partial left knee replacement surgery in December 2002. The medical evidence presented at trial was that the Plaintiff would have to undergo further surgery on his left knee to replace the partial knee replacement with a total knee replacement. Medical evidence also showed that he would have to undergo a total knee replacement of the right knee as well. Plaintiff presented evidence at trial of past and future lost wages and benefits in an amount over $500,000.00. After an eight day trial, the jury returned a verdict for the Plaintiff in the amount of 1.5 million dollars. Defendant railroad appealed the award made by the jury. On October 1, 2004, the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland in a well-reasoned opinion denied all the Defendant railroad's appeal issues and affirmed the $1.5 million dollar verdict to the Plaintiff. See CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Donald E. Miller, 858 A.2d 1025 (Md. App. 2004). The Defendant railroad then appealed this decision to the Maryland Court of Appeals. After hearing oral argument, the Maryland Court of Appeals dismissed the defendant railroad's petition and, at that time, the $1.5 million dollar judgment, along with almost 2 years worth of interest, was finally paid by the Defendant, CSX Transportation, Inc. See CSX Transportation, Inc., v. Donald Miller, 387 Md. 351 (2005).
Worker Loses Leg and Foot when Run Over by Defective Railcar, $1.5 Million Dollar Settlement, Martinsville, Virginia
On July 26, 2004, the 45-year old Plaintiff was working in the industrial yard of his employer, Northern Virginia Transfer Company, unloading lumber from railroad cars. A railcar with a defective brake rolled down an incline and hit another car which ran over the Plaintiff, severing one leg just below the knee and also severing the foot on the other leg just below the ankle.
This car, with the defective brake, was placed in the Northern Virginia Transfer yard the night before by a Norfolk Southern train crew. The runaway railcar, which caused the injury, was found to have a missing part from its hand brake mechanism which caused the hand brake to fail.
Plaintiff's experts were of the opinion that by placing this railcar in the industrial yard with a defective hand brake, Norfolk Southern violated its own rules, industry practices, Federal Railroad Administration regulations and was also in violation of the Federal Safety Appliance Act violation claim. One of the key issues in the case was whether or not in a state common law action involving a violation of the Federal Safety Appliance Act, could the Defendant still rely on the defense of contributory negligence. Had the Plaintiff been an employee of Norfolk Southern and been able to bring a Federal Employer's Liability Act claim against the railroad, then if he proved a violation of the Safety Appliance Act, contributory negligence would have clearly not been available to the Defendant as a defense.
In this case, Norfolk Southern brought a third-party action against Plaintiff's employer, Northern Virginia Transfer Company under an indemnity agreement. Before trial, a mediation was held between the three-named parties and an agreement was reached to settle the Plaintiff's case for $1.5 million with a waiver of the worker's compensation insurance liens.
Metro-North Carman Suffers Cumulative Trauma Knee Injuries Requiring Knee Replacements, $386,000.00 Mediated Settlement in New York City
The Plaintiff who was a Carman for Metro-North and worked many years at Metro-North's facilities at the Grand Central Station in mid-town Manhattan. He also worked as a Carman at Metro-North's Highbridge facility in the Bronx. At this facility, Plaintiff was required to refurbish Metro-North's passenger railroad cars. In these jobs, Plaintiff was exposed to all the risk factors for developing cumulative trauma disorders of the knee. Due to the jobs, Plaintiff developed early onset osteoarthritis of his knee. The arthritis became so sever that he was required to undergo a knee replacement. Plaintiff had to undergo several revisions of his first knee replacement. Because of his knee injuries, Plaintiff was unable to return to his job as a Carman. At mediation, the Plaintiff's case was settled for $386,000.00.
Railroad Worker Occupational Back Injury Case, $467,250.00 Net Verdict in Cumberland, Maryland
Plaintiff, who was 47 years old at the time of trial, sustained cumulative trauma injuries to his low back from his work as a carman in the Defendant's yard and shop in Cumberland, Maryland. Plaintiff worked as a carman in Cumberland from 1994 until he was taken out of service by his doctor in 2002 due to his back. During this period of time, Plaintiff worked 50% of the time in the yard doing car inspections and coupling air hoses and the other 50% of the time in the shop repairing cars.
While performing car inspections, Plaintiff was required to walk and work on large mainline ballast which was placed in the Defendant's yard in violation of its own rules. While working in the yard and in the shop, Plaintiff was required to constantly bend, stoop and squat which put his back in awkward positions and postures. Evidence was presented at trial that workers in the Cumberland yard had been complaining about the large ballast in the yard for more than 20 years. Evidence was also presented that during the time that the Plaintiff worked as a carman the Defendant had significantly cut the number of car men working both in the yard and in the shop.
In 2002, Plaintiff was diagnosed with two herniated discs in his lower back. He underwent decompression surgery on his lower back that same year and was unable to return to his job as a carman. After a six-day trial in June 2005, the jury returned a verdict for the Plaintiff. The jury assessed total damages at $623,000.00, but concluded that the Plaintiff was 25% contributorily negligent and, therefore, the net verdict was $467,250.00. The highest offer made by the Defendant prior to the verdict was $85,000.00.
$320,000.00 Motorcycle/Car Accident Mediation Settlement
Plaintiff was injured when a small pickup truck turned left in front of him while riding his motorcycle in Roanoke, Virginia, when a small pickup truck turned left in front of him. Plaintiff was ejected from the motorcycle and landed on his shoulder, sustaining a comminuted fracture of his left clavicle, fracture of his left scapular, compression fracture of the T4 vertebrae, comminuted fracture of his little finger and a large laceration from his shoulder to his neck. He incurred $37,585.00 in medical expenses and loss wages of $27,427.00. At a six hour mediated settlement conference, we were able to secure a settlement of $320,000.00.
$425,000.00 Settlement for Virginia Railroad Worker
The Plaintiff, a laborer, age forty-nine at the time of case closing, was injured while pressure spraying paint from inside a Norfolk Southern paint booth located in Roanoke, Virginia. As the Plaintiff cleaned an area immediately adjacent to a wall in the paint booth, the pressurized stream of water came into contact with his right boot, piercing the top of the boot and impaling his right foot. He alleged that the Defendant failed to conduct adequate inspections of his job to determine associated hazards, failed to provide appropriate training, and failed to provide appropriate protective equipment in the form of metatarsal guards, which are recommended for use by the manufacturer of the pressure spraying machine, and which are designed to protect the area of the top portion of the operator's feet. The Plaintiff underwent an unsuccessful neurectomy to remove neuromas in the foot and was taken off work by his treating podiatrist. In light of the Plaintiff's age and limited education background, he was declared totally vocationally disabled. Two days after failed mediation, the parties reached a settlement of $425,000.00
Railroad Worker Cumulative Trauma Carpal Tunnel and Rotator Cuff Shoulder Injuries, $265,000.00 Settlement
During his career with the railroad, Plaintiff was exposed to all of the risk factors for developing upper extremity cumulative trauma disorders, including carpal tunnel syndrome and rotator cuff shoulder injuries. For example, he was required to use powered hand tools, including a hand held powered spiker where he was exposed to a significant amount of vibration. Also, while working for the railroad, the Plaintiff additionally performed the job of an equipment operator. In this job, he was required to operate a loader to move material and equipment to the work site.
As a result of this work exposure, the Plaintiff developed bilateral carpal tunnel syndrome and rotator cuff shoulder injuries. Because of his carpal tunnel and shoulder injuries, the Plaintiff was taken out of work by his treating surgeon and he underwent right and left carpal tunnel release surgery. Additionally, the Plaintiff underwent left shoulder release and arthroscopy for a cumulative trauma rotator cuff injury. After the Plaintiff's deposition, but before trial, this case settled for $265,000.00.
RAILROAD OCCUPATIONAL INJURY SETTLEMENTS AND VERDICTS
The attorneys of Cranwell & Moore have extensive experience in negotiating, settling and trying railroad occupational injury cases. These type of cases include, carpal tunnel syndrome and other cumulative trauma injuries to the hands, wrist and arms and also include, cumulative trauma injuries to the lower extremities such as the hips, knees, ankles and feet. These type of cases also include, lung injury cases were the worker has developed such diseases as asbestosis, mesothelioma cancer and pneumoconiosis from breathing in asbestos and other dust in the railroad work place. Also included in the occupational cases category are those injuries received from exposure to toxic chemicals such as solvents and welding fumes.
In the early 1990s, attorneys from Cranwell & Moore tried one of the first success carpal tunnel cases against a railroad. This case was appealed all the way to the Virginia Supreme Court which in a 1996 opinion confirmed the jury verdict awarding damages to a railroad worker for his carpal tunnel syndrome injuries he received on the job. See Norfolk and Western Railway vs. Johnson, 251 Va. 37 (1996). Since our success in this case before the Virginia Supreme Court, we have been able to settle most of our carpal tunnel syndrome cases before they go to trial. This includes, settlements for disability cases where the railroad worker can no longer go back to his job due to his carpal tunnel injuries.
Recently, we have been successful in both trying and settling lower extremity and back cumulative trauma injuries. These verdicts and settlements include railroad workers who have had to undergo hip and knee replacements and/or back surgery because of the injuries they received at work over many years of excessive bending, lifting, twisting and from walking on large ballast which was put down in railroad yards in violation of industry rules and standards. See CSX Transportation, Inc. v. Donald Miller 858 A.2d 1025 (Md. App. 2004).