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Jury awards damages to injured railway worker

A St. Louis County jury found that a man injured in a low-speed train collision was entitled to $1.85 million for his medical bills and the loss of his career.

Chad Hyman, 42, had been working for Union Pacific Railroad Co. for 14 years when the accident occurred four years ago, his attorney Nelson G. Wolff, of Schlichter Bogard & Denton in St. Louis, said in an interview.

Wolff said Hyman was in the locomotive of a train he had just picked up. The 75-car freight train broke apart from the locomotive and then slammed back into it. This created a phenomenon known as “slack action,” with a spring action and recoil when the hitches recouple.

The train was moving 40 mph and the locomotive at 38 mph, which classified it as a 2 mph collision despite the actual speeds.

“It went into emergency braking,” Wolff said. “He had to control the locomotive so that when it recoupled, the forces didn’t cause a derailment.”

The train did not derail, and there was no property damage.

It didn’t seem apparent at first that any of the three-man crew had injuries, Wolff said. After the adrenaline of the accident faded, though, all three did: One had minor injuries, one required neck surgery, and Hyman had head, neck and low-back injuries.

Hyman had pre-existing conditions in his back, Wolff said, a complicating factor at trial. The need for surgeries and recovery, Wolff said, was a main reason it took so long for the issue to come before a jury.

“There was a finding by the court for summary judgment on negligence in favor of the plaintiff, rendered by the court in December 2012,” defense attorney Stephen M. Buckley said in an interview. “The only issue for the jury was the nature and extent of the damages.”

Buckley said his client intended to satisfy the judgment. “We respect [the jury’s] decision in this case, especially given [the plaintiff’s] demands.”

$1.85 million verdict

Federal Employers Liability Act

Venue: St. Louis County Circuit Court

Case number/date: 11SL-CC01865/April 16, 2014

Judge: Mark D. Seigel

Defendant’s experts: Foster Peterson, Marietta, Ga., (event recording device interpretation); Elaine Serina, Hayward, Calif., R. Peter Mirkin, Sappington (orthopedist)

Last pretrial demand: $3,250,000

Last pretrial offer: $750,000

Insurer: Self-insured

Caption: Chad Hyman v. Union Pacific Railroad Co.

Plaintiff’s attorneys: Nelson G. Wolff and Jacob C. Murov, Schlichter Bogard & Denton, St. Louis.

Defendant’s attorney: Stephen M. Buckley, Buckley & Buckley, St. Louis