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Railroad car ran over heel, altered worker's life: plaintiff

Amount:

$22,474,102

Type:

Verdict-Plaintiff

State:

Illinois

Venue:

Cook County

Court:

Cook County Circuit Court

Injury Type(s):

other-peroneal tendon, tear; epidermis-degloving; foot/heel-heel; foot/heel-Achilles tendon, tear; foot/heel-fracture (fracture, calcaneus/heel); neurological-nerve damage/neuropathy (nerve damage, peroneal nerve)

Case Type:

Railroad - Railroad Accident; Worker/Workplace Negligence

Case Name:

Michael Parsons v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co., No. 2011-L-009265

Date:

November 19, 2015

Parties

Plaintiff(s):

Michael Parsons (Male, 30 Years)

Plaintiff Attorney(s):

George T. Brugess; Cogan & Power, P.C.; Chicago, IL, for Michael Parsons ■ John M. Power; Cogan & Power, P.C.; Chicago, IL, for Michael Parsons

Plaintiff Expert(s):

Alan Blackwell; Railroad Operations; Windsor, CO called by: George T. Brugess, John M. Power ■ David Gibson; M.B.A., C.P.A., C.R.C.; Vocational Assessment; Chicago, IL called by: George T. Brugess, John M. Power ■ Laura Lampton; R.N.; Life Care Planning; Louisville, KY called by: George T. Brugess, John M. Power ■ Terry Cordray; Vocational Rehabilitation; Overland Park, KS called by: George T. Brugess, John M. Power ■ Dennis Gates; M.D.; Orthopedic Surgery; Chicago, IL called by: George T. Brugess, John M. Power ■ Malcolm Cohen; Ph.D.; Lost Earnings (Economics); Ann Arbor, MI called by: George T. Brugess, John M. Power

Defendant(s):

Norfolk Southern Railway Co.

Defense Attorney(s):

Raymond H. Groble III; Daley Mohan Groble, P.C.; Chicago, IL, for Norfolk Southern Railway Co. ■ Jeffrey J. Scolaro; Daley Mohan Groble, P.C.; Chicago, IL, for Norfolk Southern Railway Co.

Defendant Expert(s):

Roy Dean; Railroad; Wake Forest, NC called by: Raymond H. Groble III, Jeffrey J. Scolaro ■ Colon Fulk; Railroad Operations; Sherrills Ford, NC called by: George T. Brugess, John M. Power, Raymond H. Groble III, Jeffrey J. Scolaro ■ Bernie Morris; Railroad Policy & Procedures; Springfield, IL called by: Raymond H. Groble III, Jeffrey J. Scolaro ■ Foster Peterson; Railroad; Marietta, GA called by: Raymond H. Groble III, Jeffrey J. Scolaro

Facts:

On Sept. 2, 2011, plaintiff Michael Parsons, 30, a conductor employed by the Norfolk Southern Railway, was working in the railroad's 51st Street yard in Chicago when his left foot was struck by a train. Parsons sued Norfolk Southern, claiming liability under the Federal Employers Liability Act. Parsons' counsel claimed the railroad had created a dangerous condition in the yard and failed to warn employees of the hazard. Plaintiff's counsel alleged that two months before the accident the railroad had installed new, wider switches in the yard. In addition, plaintiff's counsel maintained at the location where the accident occurred these new switches narrowed the centers between the tracks from 12 feet and two inches to 10 feet and five inches. Parsons' railway experts testified state law required a 13-foot, six-inch space between track centers. Parsons' counsel claimed employees were never informed of the change, and as a result Parsons was taken unaware and struck by the train. Further, Parsons' counsel produced three railroad employees who testified they had never been told of any rule against parking trains at that location and that trains were parked there routinely. Plaintiff's counsel produced locomotive dashboard camera footage showing multiple trains being parked in that location. Norfolk Southern denied liability. Defense counsel denied the railroad was responsible for creating a dangerous condition. The Illinois Commerce Commission's chief railroad engineer testified the 13-foot, six-inch standard only applied to tracks undergoing reconstruction and that the switch replacement did not constitute reconstruction. The defense maintained the railroad had designated the area where the accident occurred a "no parking zone" to insure employees had space to safely walk between the tracks, but that a train had been parked there in violation of this rule. The defense's railroad engineering and operations experts testified compliance with this rule would have rendered the area safe for workers. Defense counsel argued this rule violation was the sole proximate cause of Parsons' injury.

Injury:

Parsons was transported by ambulance to the emergency room. He sustained a traumatic amputation and degloving of his left heel, with tears to the Achilles and peroneal tendons and nerves and a calcaneus fracture. Parsons was hospitalized for five weeks, during which he underwent six surgical procedures, including multiple skin grafts and removal of his calcaneus. Parsons' counsel claimed he was unable to use his foot for two years, and when he did, it resulted in an immediate tear to the skin graft, resulting in an infection. Parsons' medical experts testified that for the rest of Parsons' life he will experience cycles of skin breakdown on his heel, preventing him from using his foot for three months and requiring antibiotic treatment to prevent infection. Parsons' orthopedic expert testified the only, permanent solution would be amputation of the leg below the knee. Parsons' vocational assessment expert testified these issues will reduce his work life by 11.4 years. Parsons sought $36,000,000 for future medical expenses, lost income, past and future pain and suffering, loss of normal life and disfigurement.

Result:

The jury found Norfolk Southern liable and awarded Parsons $22,474,102.

Michael Parsons: $474,102 Personal Injury: Future Medical Cost; $1,500,000 Personal Injury: Future Lost Earnings Capability; $19,000,000 Personal Injury: Past Pain And Suffering; $1,500,000 Personal Injury: Past Disfigurement

Trial Information:

Judge:

Donald J. Suriano

Demand:

$12,000,000

Offer:

$2,000,000

Trial Length:

9  days

Trial Deliberations:

3.5  hours

Editor's Comment:

This report is based on information that was provided by plaintiff's counsel. Defense counsel did not respond to the reporter's phone calls.