A state appeals court in Illinois has upheld a $21 million judgment for a railroad worker whose foot was crushed on the job. Michael Parsons had been working as a conductor for Norfolk Southern Railway Company in Chicago for a year when his foot was crushed between the rail car on which he was riding and a car he had recently left on an adjacent track on the 51st/55th Street railway in Chicago. He alleged that two months before the accident, the railroad had installed new, wider switches in the yard, which narrowed the space between the tracks from 12 feet and two inches to 10 feet and five inches, and that employees were not notified of this change.
At trial, expert witnesses for Parsons testified that Illinois state law required 13-foot six-inch spaces between the centers of each track. Because he was unaware that the spaces between the tracks had been narrowed, Parsons was struck unaware and struck by a passing train. After the accident, he 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.
As damages, he sought $36,000,000 for future medical expenses, lost income, past and future pain and suffering, loss of normal life and disfigurement. The jury subsequently found Norfolk Southern liable and awarded Parsons $22 million, from which Norfolk Southern appealed. Their primary argument on appeal was that the damages award should have been lower because Parsons was partially at fault for the accident. The appeals panel denied all of Norfolk Southern’s claims. Revisiting testimony from the jury trial, the panel determined that the jury could find Parsons’ conduct was reasonable owing to testimony supporting claims that his conduct leading up to the accident was customary for many rail yard workers. The court also found that reducing Parsons’s award was improper because, at the age of 34, he may need surgery every four or five years for the rest of his life and that his pain and suffering will only increase.
Contact an Atlanta Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you have been injured on the job, you may be entitled to compensation, either through a workers’ compensation or negligence claim. Contact the attorneys at Slappey & Sadd for a free consultation to discuss your case by calling 404.255.6677. We serve the entire state of Georgia, including the following locations: Sandy Springs, Marietta, and Smyrna.