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$33 Million | Railroad Worker Suffers Double Leg Amputation

The plaintiff sustained massive degloving to his upper thighs and lower abdomen, fractures to both legs and multiple areas of his pelvis, and subsequent surgical amputation of both legs.

Jury Verdict Reporter

Publication: Illinois Jury Verdict Reporter Published: 08/20/2010

(10Mr/1) F.E.L.A.—RAILROAD CONDUCTOR LOSES BOTH LEGS AFTER BEING STRUCK BY TRAIN (5)

Andrew Schulte v Iowa Interstate Railroad Ltd. V L.A. Colo Inc. 07L-82 Tried Mar. 8-25, 2010

Verdict: $33,000,000 v Iowa Interstate Railroad Lts. ($10,000,000 loss of normal life; $6,300,000 pain & suffering; $10,000,000 disfigurement; $4,200,000 life care; $2,500,000 wage loss); Not Guilty v 3rd party deft L.A. Colo Inc.

Judge: Alan G. Blackwood (IL, Rock Island 14th Jd Cr)

Pltf Atty(s): James L. Farina and George T. Brugess of Hoey & Farina for Schulte DEMAND: $30,000,000 ASKED: $51,000,000

Deft Atty(s): Michael B. Flynn and John E. Young, IV of Flynn & Wirkus (Quincy, MA) for Iowa Interstate Railroad Ltd. (Lexington Insurance) OFFER: $3,000,000; David M. Alt and Cody S. Moon of Bates & Carey for L.A. Colo Inc.

Pltf Medl: Dr. William Schulte (Family Practice) for Schulte

Deft Medl: Stephanie Long, R.N. (Nursing) for Iowa Interstate Railroad Ltd.

Pltf Expert(s): Colon R. Fulk (Railroad Operational Consultant), Alan Blackwell (Railroads), Dr. Dennis Gates (Orthopedist), Terry L. Cordray, M.S. (Vocational Rehabilitation) and Ronald T. Smolarski of Beacon Rehabilitation Services, 114 Felch St., Ann Arbor, MI (734-665-8326) (Life Care Planner) for Schulte

Deft Expert(s): Foster J. Peterson (Railroad Operational Consultant), Gregory Guthrie of Rail Consulting LLC, N11512 Muskellunge Lake Road, Tomahawk, WI (715-224-2481) (Railroads), Steven F. Wiker, Ph.D. of West Virginia University, Dept. of Industrial & Management Systems Engineering, P.O. Box 6070, Morgantown, WV (304- 293-9475) (Biomechanical Engineer) and Debra E. Berens, Ph.D. of Weed & Associates Inc., 1156 Masters Lane, Snellville, GA (770-985-4546) (Life Care Planner) for Iowa Interstate Railroad Ltd.

On the morning of April 8, 2007, Easter Sunday, pltf M-19 Andrew Schulte was working as a conductor for deft Iowa Interstate Railroad, switching cars in the railroad’s Rock Island yard, when he was struck by a train. He sustained massive degloving to his upper thighs and Iowa abdomen, fractures to both legs and multiple areas of his pelvis, and subsequent surgical amputation of both legs (past medical expenses paid by deft, $2,500,000 lifetime LT). Schulte had worked only one year and five days for the railroad at the time of the incident and was in a Marine Reserves unit scheduled to go to Iraq in October 2007; he is currently unemployed. Pltf contended the railroad was negligent in that it violated numerous safety rules while switching cars, the train cars involved did not uncouple because of a non-responsive pin lifter, unsafe yard conditions caused Schulte to trip on a hole near a newly installed railroad tie, and the railroad violated federal communication regulations governing train operations. Specially, pltf asserted deft railroad violated 49 Code of Federal Regulations Section 220.49, which requires the railroad to halt a shove move of railcars in half the distance of the last radio command unless further instructions are received. The last radio communication given by Schulte was “give me one more car,” which was a direction to shove 50 feet (the industry accepted length of a railroad car); accordingly, the train should have stopped in half the distance after the command, i.e. 25 feet, but instead the train continued moving for 113 feet, causing it to run over him and crush his lower body. The defense maintained the engineer received a second radio command from Schulte which allowed the train to continue moving down the track, pltf’s version of the accident was contradicted by scientific reconstruction, and Schulte deliberately went in between moving railroad cars to turn an “angle cock” to keep air brake pressure in the car. Pltf argued the locomotive’s event recorder, the supervisor’s incident report, and the crew’s statements to a railroad attorney on the day of the occurrence all refuted deft’s claim of a second radio command. The railroad filed a 3rd party claim against L.A. Colo Inc. (the company that had performed track work and replaced rail ties at the yard), asserting it failed to fill in around the hole that caused Schulte to trip before he was run over by the train. The jury determined this was a violation but not a proximate cause of the accident. The $33 million award is a record verdict for a single pltf in Rock Island County as well as the highest F.E.L.A. verdict in JVR’s records.

The railroad worker in Rock Island, Illinois was awarded $33 million for his injuries. On Easter Sunday, the plaintiff was working as a conductor for the defendant, Iowa Interstate Railroad, switching cars in the railroad’s Rock Island yard, when he was struck by a train. He sustained massive degloving to his upper thighs and lower abdomen, fractures to both legs and multiple areas of his pelvis, and subsequent surgical amputation of both legs. The $33 million award is a record verdict for a single plaintiff in Rock Island County as well as the highest F.E.L.A. verdict in JVR’s records.

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