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$1.85M Verdict for Worker Injured in Slow-Motion Train Wreck

A Saint Louis, MO, jury awarded $1.85 million to a former railroad worker who was injured in a slow-motion collision of a runaway locomotive.

Chad Hyman, 42, of Villa Grove, IL, was injured four years ago while working as a locomotive engineer for Union Pacific Railroad Company when a 75-car freight train broke apart from the locomotive while operating in the railroad's St. Louis Service Unit.

Before the trains emergency brakes could fully engage, the 10,000-ton train ran back into the locomotive in which Hyman was working, jarring the crew members due to the collision as they fought to prevent the train from derailing.

He sustained head, neck and low back injuries for which extensive spinal surgery was performed by noted St. Louis orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Matthew Gornet.

Before trial, the court entered summary judgment against Union Pacific finding that it had violated federal safety laws which resulted in injury to Hyman. The case was then set for jury trial to determine the amount of damages to compensate him fairly. Hyman, a 14-year employee of the railroad, sought compensation for his outstanding and future medical bills and lost wages.

A two-mph collision

At trial, Union Pacific disputed the extent of injuries, pointing out that the black box event recorder revealed minimal collision forces from what was essentially a two-mph collision which resulted in no property damage, no derailment, and no physical bruising to Hyman.

"Chad was a loyal and dedicated railroad employee who saved this runaway train from a derailment disaster. The railroad exposed him to needless danger by violating federal safety laws that require trains to be coupled together securely. The railroad's denial that the collision caused any significant injury was soundly rejected by the jury. This verdict will allow Chad to pay for necessary medical treatment of his injuries and compensate for the loss of his railroad career," said Hyman's attorney, Nelson G. Wolff of Schlichter Bogard & Denton in St. Louis.

The case was brought under the Federal Employers Liability Act or FELA because railroad employees are not covered by state workers compensation laws. The case was tried before Circuit Judge Mark D. Seigel and reportedly is one of the largest FELA verdicts in the history of St. Louis County.

Union Pacific paid the full amount of the judgment, plus court costs and post-judgment interest after a 1-1/2 week trial without any appeal or post-trial motion. The judgment, returned on April 16, 2014, exceeded the railroad's pretrial offer by over $1 million.

The case is Hyman v. Union Pacific RR Co., Case #11SL-CC01865, Circuit Court of St. Louis County.

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