KC Jury Verdict of $160 Million in RR Crossing Accident

A Jackson County, Missouri jury awarded a $160 million verdict against Union Pacific Railroad and Amtrak in favor of a 34-year-old woman who was severely injured in a railroad crossing accident. The jury rejected Union Pacific’s defense that it had no duty to install gates and warning lights at the crossing, where a fatal collision had occurred just four months earlier.

The jury awarded $40 million in actual damages and $120 million in punitive damages. The verdict assigned 75% of the blame for the accident to Union Pacific, 25% to Amtrak, and none to the driver of the car. The punitive damages were assessed only against Union Pacific.

Attorney Grant L. Davis, who represented the plaintiff along with Thomas C. Jones, said Union Pacific knew the crossing was dangerous but had done nothing to warn motorists. “This is a company with 65,000 employees and annual revenues of $10 billion, but it doesn’t have a single worker whose job it is to see if crossings are dangerous,” Davis said. “The company never took responsibility and showed no remorse. If Union Pacific would take responsibility, crossings would be safer and fewer people would be killed.”

The size of the verdict was a result of the jury’s grasp of the “big picture,” according to Davis. “This is the largest railroad in the country, and it doesn’t even have a single employee whose job it is to figure out which crossings are dangerous,” Davis said. “They say it’s the government’s deal, but that’s just bull. This is a verdict that says, ‘We want you to change the way you do business, to quit denying your duty and quit trying to push it into someone else’s lap.’”

Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

$37.5 Million Settlement in Fatal Railroad Crossing Accident

DBJ negotiated a $37.5 million settlement from Kansas City Southern Railway Co. on behalf of a family whose car was struck by a train at a railroad crossing. A 5-year-old girl was killed and her mother and three sisters were severely injured. A Jackson County jury deliberated for two days after eight weeks of trial before the settlement was reached.

The railroad had installed lights and gates at the crossing, but took the gates down and placed black plastic bags over the lights. “The evidence of fault against KCS was overwhelming,” said the family’s lead attorney, Grant L. Davis of DBJ. “KCS should have installed lights and gates years before the wreck and they absolutely should not have turned off the lights and gates after they had them up.”

DBJ rejected the railroad’s $25 million settlement offer and proceeded to trial. Kansas City trial attorney and mediator Hollis H. Hanover called the settlement “stunning and unprecedented” and said that turning down a $25 million offer and taking the case to trial showed “an icy fearlessness” on the part of the attorneys, as well as an unusual amount of trust earned from their clients.

The accident occurred at an intersection that “needed the protection of lights and gates to be safe,” Davis said. “It was listed as one of the most dangerous crossings in Louisiana.”

The railroad also failed to follow the federal code regarding active lights and non-working gates. “The rules regarding activation failure are that the railroad must bring its train to a complete stop and have someone flag the crossing when lights and gates are up but not working,” said DBJ’s Thomas C. Jones.

“KCS has a duty to maintain safe crossings on its own tracks,” added Scott S. Bethune, also of DBJ. “KCS’ policies and practice ignore the fact that KCS is supposed to maintain safe crossings.”

The railroad had recently raised the speed limit on the track at the crossing. Increased speed raises the likelihood of train collisions and deaths dramatically, but also leads to an increase in revenue for the railroad. “KCS increased its revenues at the expense of public safety,” Jones said.

Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

DBJ Wins Family $21 Million Verdict in Fatal Helicopter Crash Case

DBJ won a verdict of $21 million from a St. Louis jury for two U.S. Army reservists who died when their helicopter crashed after hitting unmarked power lines. Three Rivers Electric Cooperative was found responsible because the lines and their supporting structures were almost impossible to see and Three Rivers knew aircraft flew at low levels in the area.

A previous verdict of $5.25 million was overturned after the defense appealed. “We’re happy this utility corporation has once again been held accountable for its negligent actions,” said attorney Grant L. Davis, of DBJ.

The jury found that the defendant violated the industry standard of care when it failed to put marker balls on the power lines. The helicopter crashed after striking wires owned by Three Rivers 100 feet above the Osage River. Trees and vegetation obscured the supports and there were no marker balls on the lines. In addition, the power lines had oxidized to a color that blended in with the trees and the water. “One of our witnesses testified that if you were trying to camouflage the wires, you couldn’t do a better job,” said Davis.

Plaintiff’s attorneys also found evidence of a previous crash and numerous near misses. “We had a couple of eyewitnesses who not only saw the helicopter crash, but also saw a fixed wing plane strike the power lines in the same location,” Davis said.

Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

Helicopter Crash $21 Million Verdict Upheld on Appeal

The Missouri Court of Appeals’ Eastern District upheld a $21 million verdict for the victims of a helicopter crash caused by unmarked power lines. The Court found that the fact that the jury forewoman said during voir dire that she had sympathy for the plaintiffs and would find it difficult to set aside her emotions was not grounds for reversal of the case.

The court relied on the fact that the forewoman had also said, “I think I can be fair” in deciding the case. “The critical question in reviewing the exercise of discretion is whether the challenged venire persons indicated unequivocally their ability to evaluate the evidence fairly and impartially,” wrote Judge Paul J. Simon on behalf of the Court.

“The trial judge was there and heard the inflection in her voice,” said plaintiff’s counsel Grant L. Davis of DBJ. “The appeals court deferred to the trial judge under the abuse of discretion standard. She was as nice and straightforward as you’re going to get, totally believable.”

The defense’s request that the verdict be reduced was also rejected by the Court. “This court has reaffirmed the belief that human life has a great value,” Davis said. “Missouri courts have always held that juries have a wide discretion in deciding on wrongful death verdicts.”

Davis noted that in addition to the $21 million verdict, the plaintiffs were also entitled to $9 million in prejudgment interest.

Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

DBJ Wins $17M Verdict in Cape Girardeau County Railroad Crossing Case

A Missouri jury awarded DBJ client E.H.S. $17 million for major injuries sustained in a collision that occurred in 2016.  The accident occurred at a concrete traffic barrier at a BNSF railroad crossing on Route AB in rural Cape Girardeau County.

DBJ represents those who have been seriously injured at railroad crossings and through other negligence of railroad companies. If you or a loved one has been injured by the negligence of railway companies, please contact DBJ today.

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DBJ Wins $13.19M Verdict in North Dakota Railroad Crossing Case

A North Dakota jury awarded DBJ client David Rentz $13.19 million for major injuries sustained in a railroad crossing collision that occurred in 2012.  The accident occurred at a public crossing that was controlled and required to be maintained by BNSF Railway in McHenry County, North Dakota.

DBJ attorneys Grant Davis, Tom Jones, Tim Gaarder and John Carroll successfully proved to the jury that BNSF held the vast majority of fault for the accident due to its lack of maintenance of the crossing – vegetation overgrowth seriously limited visibility to the oncoming train – as well the train’s horn being inaudible to Mr. Rentz until immediately prior to the collision.

DBJ represents those who have been seriously injured at railroad crossings and through other negligence of railroad companies. If you or a loved one has been injured by the negligence of railway companies, please contact DBJ today.

 

DBJ Settles Railroad Crossing Case for Record $12.5 Million

DBJ negotiated a $12.5 million settlement with Union Pacific Railroad on behalf of a motorist hit by a train at a railroad crossing. It was the largest railroad crossing settlement in the history of the state of Arkansas.

As a result of the collision, Lee Johnson, 44, suffered permanent brain injuries, orthopedic injuries, and is permanently disabled from working. His wife of 23 years and 15-year-old daughter were killed in the crash.

“Union Pacific refuses to evaluate crossings and spend its own money to install lights and automatic gates,” said attorney Thomas C. Jones of DBJ. “Their policy is that it’s always the motorist’s fault.”

A review of the accident history at the crossing showed at least 28 serious crashes over the last 40 years. Union Pacific was aware of the previous accidents and dangers motorists faced at the crossing, yet chose to do nothing. Trees still blocked the view at the crossing and flashing lights did not provide enough warning.

“This was one of the worst crossings I’ve ever seen, which never should’ve been left in the condition it was,” Jones said.

Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

Jury Verdict of $9.6 Million Against BNSF for Railroad Crossing Accident

An Oklahoma jury awarded $9.6 million to the family of a man killed at a BNSF Railway railroad crossing.  BNSF’s negligence led to the dangerous conditions that directly caused the accident.

The BNSF train failed to blow its horn to warn drivers of its approach to the crossing. BNSF was also responsible for overgrown vegetation at the crossing, impeding motorists’ views of oncoming trains, and should have installed flashing lights and gates.

The jury awarded $14.8 million to the family to compensate them for their loss, and determined that BNSF was 65% at fault for the accident, resulting in a final award of $9.6 million.

“The Nye family brought this lawsuit to hold the railroad accountable for its actions and inactions,” DBJ attorney Grant L. Davis said. “The Nye family does not want this to happen to another family and hopes the verdict will make the company make safer choices at grade crossings.”

“We’re happy the jury held BNSF responsible for their actions by awarding this verdict,” Tom Jones, also of DBJ, said in a statement.

Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

Iowa Jury Awards Injured Railroad Conductor $3.5 Million

A DBJ-represented railroad conductor received a jury-verdict judgment of $3.5 million in a negligence case against Union Pacific Railway. Franklin David Barker, of Ankeny, Iowa, developed kidney failure after a rigorous shift in near-zero weather conditions.

Barker asked his dispatcher for additional help but was denied. After the shift, he went to the emergency room, where it was determined he was suffering from rhabdomyolysis, the breakdown of muscle tissue leading to the release of muscle fiber contents into the blood, causing renal failure. The suit alleged that defective equipment contributed to unsafe working conditions, violating federal railroad work safety laws.

Barker “sustained life threatening, severe and permanent injuries,” his lawyers, including Wes Shumate and Scott S. Bethune of DBJ, alleged. “On account of these injuries plaintiff has undergone extensive medical care and treatment and plaintiff will be required to seek medical treatment and life care in the future.”

There were no pretrial settlement discussions because Union Pacific refused to negotiate. Instead, they were required by the jury to pay $400,000 for past pain and suffering, $1.25 million for future pain and suffering, $24,975 in past lost earnings, $178,050 in future lost earnings, $1.38 million for future medical expenses, and $313,000 for loss of household services.

Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

FELA Award of $3.2 Million After Railroad Worker Falls from Ladder

A Union Pacific Railroad employee represented by DBJ received a $3.2 million jury verdict as a result of a fall from a crane ladder. Mark Larsen, 54, missed a rung on the ladder and fell twelve feet onto the train tracks, suffering neck and back injuries.

Against the recommendation of his supervisor, Larsen filed a personal safety injury with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Once he was ready to return to work, he was fired for alleged personal use of a company truck.

Larsen sued Union Pacific for negligence under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), alleging the company provided an unsafe workplace, failed to inspect its work processes for safety, and did not warn employees of dangers.

Larson’s attorneys, including Wes Shumate and Scott Bethune of DBJ, offered to settle the case for $3.2 million. Union Pacific responded with a lowball offer of a mere $25,000. The jury resoundingly affirmed the fairness of the plaintiff’s pre-trial offer, awarding exactly the settlement amount in damages.

Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.

Family of Man Killed in Railroad Crossing Accident Receives $1.9 Million Settlement

Thomas C. Jones of DBJ secured a $1.9 million settlement for the family of a 22-year-old man who was killed in a railroad crossing accident. The man was traveling near Warrensburg, Missouri when his pickup truck was struck by a high-speed Amtrak train at an uncontrolled rural grade crossing.

The plaintiffs claimed that Union Pacific, which owned the crossing, knew it was dangerous, but failed to warn the public or change their safety procedures. Despite receiving a recommendation seven months earlier that lights and gates were needed because of a 90 percent sight-distance obstruction, the only warning device Union Pacific employed at the crossing consisted of faded crossbucks.

Amtrak trains routinely ran 70 mph around a nearby curve, although both the curve and the terrain obstructed the view. Motorists traveling north had less than three seconds’ visual notice of approaching trains. Local residents testified that the crossing was dangerous, and employees of a nearby plant testified they had informed Union Pacific of near misses involving their trucks.

The Amtrak train was on a demonstration tour of the United States. It had limited sight lines and was not intended to be run on tracks with unprotected crossings. In addition, the emergency brake lever could not easily be reached and the engineers were not instructed on the proper operation of the train on Missouri tracks, where many of the crossings have no lights or gates.

Please call DBJ today at 1-800-875-5972 for a free consultation.