Appeals Court Affirms $1.4 Million Verdict

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The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, affirmed a $1.427 million verdict against Union Pacific on September 8, 2009.

We are very pleased with the decision and hope this case, and others like it, force railroads to make the rail yards safe. Railroaders should not be forced to work, day after day, under the work conditions that existed in the Neff Yard.

The Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District, No. ED92169 affirmed a $1.427 million verdict against Union Pacific on September 8, 2009. Union Pacific's appeal was heard on August 27, 2009 by Justices Glenn A. Norton, P.J., Mary K. Hoff, J. and Lawrence E. Mooney, J. All three judges concurred in the decision to uphold the verdict.

A St. Louis City jury returned the verdict in April of 2007 against Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR) on behalf of James Heverly, a 51-year-old brakeman, who worked for UP from 1978 to 2002 when he had to quit working due to osteoarthritis. The trainman can no longer work due to osteoarthritis of the hips caused by years of wear-and-tear from poor ballast conditions at Union Pacific's Kansas City area rail yards.

Brad Lakin, Managing Partner at LakinChapman and Designated Counsel for the United Transportation Union, said, "Experts testified that decades of medical literature supported the finding the osteoarthritis was caused by conditions at UP's rail yards. UP's own specifications, as well as industry standards, recommend the use of smaller "yard ballast" (1 ¼" in size or less) to cover walkways in rail yards to provide a safe walking surface for rail workers. Instead, UP used a larger, coarser "mainline ballast" that creates a surface that witnesses testified is extremely difficult to walk on, causing workers ankle, knee and hip pain after a full day of walking on it."

Lakin also noted that "In addition to using the wrong ballast, witnesses testified to the poor ground conditions in the rail yard, especially trip and slip hazards, such as standing water, spilled grain and debris. After so many years of working in these conditions, he developed a chronic condition so painful he could no longer work."

This was the second time the case was tried to a verdict. In 2007, the client was represented by another firm, and the jury returned a defense verdict for the railroad. The trial court was convinced to grant a new trial. On retrial, our client won a verdict against the railroad for $1,427,000.

Charles Chapman, Partner at LakinChapman, argued the case before the Missouri Court of Appeals. He said, "We are very pleased with the decision and hope this case, and others like it, force railroads to make the rail yards safe. Railroaders should not be forced to work, day after day, under the work conditions that existed in the Neff Yard."

LakinChapman lawyers have a long history of aggressively defending the rights of injured railroad workers and their families across the country.

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