JURY AWARDS 6 MILLION FOR TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY
We are pleased to report that a seven person jury in Federal Court in Tacoma, WA rendered a $6 million verdict for our client Robert Shannon against Columbia Basin Railroad. The trial started on January 28th and lasted four weeks with a one week interruption. The trial judge was Thomas Leighton.
Mr. Shannon was a trainman for this short line railroad for 15 years. On December 6, 2010, while engaged in switching activity at a remote siding near Sunnyside, WA. He pulled a cut lever to open the knuckle. It failed to open. So he stepped in between the rails to open the knuckle manually using his hand while also pulling on the cut lever. He got the knuckle open and was just stepping out when he was struck from behind by a slow moving car that apparently rolled down a grade at the same time. The incident occurred at about 5:30 pm and it was dark. Mr. Shannon does not remember exactly what happened or how it happened. There were no eye witnesses.
He went to the ER and was initially diagnosed with a non-displaced radial head (elbow) fracture. In the days and weeks that followed he began to complain of concussion type symptoms. He was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome. He continued to deteriorate cognitively. He also developed radiating pain into his right leg and a later MRI revealed a protruding disk in his low back.
At trial plaintiff contended he suffered a severe traumatic brain injury as well as spinal disk injuries which resulted in total disability. We utilized Dr. Wilson Hayes for biomechanical and accident reconstruction, Michael O’Brien for FRA regulations, Smokey Culver for operations and rules, Dr. Joseph Wu for PET and DTI imaging, Dr. Paula Lantsberger for Occupational Medicine, Dr. Stephanie Moore for neuropsychological testing, Ms. Cloie Johnson for life care planning and Shelley Drury for economic evaluation.
Judge Leighton denied our pretrial motions for Summary Judgment on the Safety Appliance Act and allowed CBRR to claim no liability. They retained Brian Heikkila to claim no SAA violation, no liability, and to blame plaintiff for not being “alert and attentive”. At the conclusion of the defendant’s case, we again moved for a directed verdict on the SAA, and finally the judge granted it.
CBRR still maintained the only injury suffered by Mr. Shannon was the minor elbow fracture and perhaps a mild concussion that should have healed within just a few months. It was able to obtain testimony from several of the plaintiff’s own treating doctors that his initially symptoms were not that bad and normally a mild concussion resolves without long term deficits within just three to six months.
The liability insurance company for the CBRR was Zurich. The jury deliberated for a day and a half and returned the verdict at 2:30 pm Friday February 22, 2013.