Railroad Worker Gets $22.47 Million for Amputation of Left Heel

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Chicago FELA attorneys at Cogan & Power, P.C. obtain $22.47 million verdict on behalf of Illinois railroad conductor for disfigured heel.

Chicago Truck Accident Attorney

John Power

It sends a clear message that railroads must be as concerned about safety as they are profits.

A $22.47 million verdict was handed down in the case of a railroad worker whose heel was torn off when two railroad cars collided on what was supposed to be parallel tracks. One of the largest Federal Employer Liability Act (FELA) verdicts, "it sends a clear message that railroads must be as concerned about safety as they are profits," says John M. Power and George T. Brugess, the plaintiff's attorneys.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff, working as a conductor on September 2, 2011 on the 51st Street yard, was reorganizing railroad cars on several tracks. The complaint further alleges that less than two months earlier, the railroad replaced switches and track, creating a safety hazard for workers in the yard. In making changes to the configuration, the railroad turned previously parallel tracks into an unsuspecting trap because they converged too closely for safe passage.

The defense argued that the plaintiff parked cars in an area that was a, “no parking zone,” and as such created the dangerous condition. The railroad’s assertion was contradicted by dash-cam footage from the engine showing that other engineers on the 51st street yard had also left train cars on parallel tracks, just like the plaintiff. The jury ultimately agreed that the railroad was responsible for creating the dangerous condition and failing to properly inform employees at the 51st street yard, including the plaintiff.

The plaintiff suffered a traumatic amputation of his left heel at the scene. When he arrived at the hospital, doctors found that the back half of his foot had no skin covering any of the essential structures. He had severed nerves, torn tendons and ligaments and needed a 15 square-inch skin graft cut out from his thigh to cover the heel area. Later his heel bone died and was removed and replaced by a bulky skin graft. The plaintiff could not bear weight on his foot for more than two years. When he finally did the graft ripped open, causing repeated infections that continue to plague him today. The jury heard evidence that for the rest of his life plaintiff will go through three-month cycles of the heel skin breaking open, requiring that he take antibiotics to treat the infection and not bear any weight until it closes. His only other alternative is a leg amputation.

Plaintiff filed his claim under FELA, the exclusive remedy for railroad workers injured on the job. The trial lasted nine days and on November 20, 2015, the jury returned a verdict of $22,470,102 in favor of the plaintiff and against Norfolk Southern Railway Company. The verdict allocated $474,102 for future medical expenses; $1.5 million in lost benefits and earnings; $1.5 million for disfigurement; and $19 million for pain and suffering.

The Honorable Judge Donald J. Suriano, Circuit Court of Cook County, presided over the trial. The trial occurred in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, No. 11 L 009265. Michael Parsons v Norfolk Southern Railroad Company.

Cogan & Power, P.C. is a Chicago personal injury law firm. For more information, visit http://coganpower.com or call (312) 477-2500.

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