Jefferson County Award to Railroad Worker May Set Record
St. Peters, MO (Law Firm Newswire) March 14, 2014 - A Missouri conductor lost his leg when he was struck by a BNSF Railway train. Now, his resulting court award may the largest on record in Jefferson County.
One never hears about the majority of workplace injuries, and most are settled quietly and equitably. But some cases depart from routine, drawing major media attention. Recently, a Jefferson County jury awarded what may be the largest personal injury verdict in county history.
The case reached court on January 21, 2014, centering on a railroad worker whose right leg was amputated after it was run over by a train. The jury took about two hours to deliberate before delivering a unanimous verdict and awarding $12.5 million to Michael Bolen, 51, of Jackson, Missouri. Bolen, formerly a conductor/switchman for BNSF Railway, said that he stumbled over a boulder in an area adjacent to the tracks and was unable to avoid a slow-moving train that struck him.
According to Bolen’s attorney, the railroad attempted to settle the case for $400,000 before the trial. At trial, Bolen’s attorney sought minimum damages of $10.5 million. The plaintiff argued that railroad negligence contributed to the accident and demonstrated that unsafe working conditions existed when Bolen, an ex-Marine, was injured.
At trial, BNSF argued that Bolen was lying about the circumstances of the accident and the sequence of events. The company hired engineers to disprove Bolen’s story through mechanical calculations and computer animations; they claimed that the accident was not physically possible as the plaintiff described it. The company also tried to dilute Bolen’s claim for lost wages, calling a witness who stated that Bolen could get a better job than the car wash employment he said he could now sustain.
“Employers will assemble an array of experts to impress a jury with their technical expertise in an attempt to convince them that a plaintiff must be wrong,” said Charles James, a prominent Missouri work injury attorney. “The ultimate objective is to tamp down or even eliminate damages.”
But the jury did not agree with the defense's assessment, and the $12.5 million award will help Bolen to recover from his losses.
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