David Peterson v BNSF Jury Verdict $1,038,900

The Bremseth Law Firm is proud to report another successful Jury Verdict against BNSF. On May 2, 2014, a unanimous, seven-person Anoka, Minnesota Jury awarded UTU Conductor David Peterson $1,038,900.

Mr. Peterson sustained a left knee meniscal tear while getting off an engine on mainline ballast near Marshall Minnesota while servicing the ADM plant. The ballast shifted under his right foot as he stepped down onto the ballast. His left foot was still on the last step of the engine. When his right foot shifted a bit on the ballast, he felt a "twinge" in his left knee. He thought it was just a minor thing at first. He completed his shift without difficulty but did report to his Yardmaster that he might have "tweaked" his knee. The next day it was still sore so he went to the Emergency Room. He followed up with his physician. The MRI showed a torn medial meniscus. He subsequently had arthroscopic repair of the meniscus.

The BNSF, of course, denied any liability or responsibility and hired a ballast expert to testify that mainline ballast is required for weight and drainage issues, that conductors and other workers get on and off engines all over the country all the time on mainline ballast and, if done correctly, it's safe. BNSF also paraded in several managers to explain how to do a proper dismount using three point contacts.

BNSF also denied any permanent injury to Peterson's knee and called a medical examiner to testify that arthroscopic meniscus repairs are routine, relatively minor procedures, are done all the time without any impairment or disability, and that Mr. Peterson was fine.

We presented our track expert to explain that dismounting an engine on sloped mainline ballast is unsafe because it can inherently shift under your weight. We presented evidence that slips and falls on ballast are one of the main causes of injuries on the BNSF system. Mr. Peterson's knee surgeon explained that some lifting, bending, stooping and climbing restrictions were proper for Peterson.

The jury found 100% negligence on BNSF and no contributory negligence on plaintiff. The Jury's award breaks down as follows:

  1. Past pain, disability, and emotional distress.......$ 50,000
  2. Past wage loss....................................................$ 340,900
  3. Future pain, suffering, and emotional distress....$ 15,000
  4. Loss of future earning capacity...........................$ 558,000
  5. Future medical expenses....................................$ 75,000

Total................................................................................. $ 1,038,900

The pretrial offer was zero.

This is the second successful award we have obtained for Mr. Peterson. Previously, we received an FRSA (whistleblower) award from an Administrative Law Judge due to BNSF's wrongful firing of him after he turned in his personal injury report. That award provides full back pay, punitive damages, compensatory damages, reinstatement, and attorney's fees totaling approximately $1,000,000.

So, as a result of his on-the-job injury, Mr. Peterson now has two favorable awards against the BNSF Railway Company, Inc.: an FRSA award for $1,000,000, plus an Order for reinstatement, and now this FELA verdict for $1,038,900, plus costs and interest. Mr. Peterson is currently 59 years old and lives just outside of Willmar, Minnesota with his wife Pam.

The Bremseth Law Firm specializes in representing injured railroad employees and their families pursuant to the FELA, as well as other serious personal injury and death claims, and is proud to be union designated and recommended.