How do you get a financial settlement for an industrial worker who leaves his work station, borrows his employer’s front-end loader, parks it across a railroad track at 2:00 A.M., dismounts to load the bucket with railroad ties for his own personal use, and gets hit by an oncoming train?
After being hit by the train, Dean Brett’s client John incurred more than $1.2 million in medical bills while spending a year in the hospital. He was fitted with a prosthetic leg, a colostomy bag, and a hearing aid. Despite an extensive period of rehabilitation, doctors forecast that John would no longer be able to work.
The majority of attorney effort was focused on demonstrating that John’s one-time judgment error paled in comparison to the corporate irresponsibility of the railroad company WATCO.
John was hand-loading railroad ties into the bucket of a front-end loader on a switching yard track at his Boise Cascade workplace when a railroad engine driven by two employees of the local switching contractor WATCO, rounded a bend in the track, headed for the rear of the loader. The train crew saw an object on the track when the engine was at least 260 feet and 18 seconds away from the loader. The WATCO employees did not blow the engine’s horn or stop the engine before it crashed into the front-end loader, pushing it over our client.
The crewmen estimated their speed at between 5 and 10 miles per hour. The engineer failed to blow the horn, failed to engage the warning bell, and failed to engage the brake sanders. He hit the independent brakes rather than the emergency brakes, which would have automatically engaged the brake sanders.
WATCO management ultimately admitted that the horn should have been sounded to warn John of the impending collision. And the engineer himself admitted that John would have heard the horn. Even the WATCO Location Manager agreed that John would have “definitely” heard the horn had it been blown.
WATCO laid the ground work for this accident through a systematic course of irresponsible conduct, and then its untrained employees had the last opportunity to prevent the tragic accident by simply blowing the train’s warning horn.
The case settled for $3.5 million in mediation.