Robert Pottroff

Pottroff & karlin, LLC
320 Sunset Ave.
Manhattan, KS 66502
(785) 539-4656

Professional Information

Robert L. Pottroff is the managing partner of Pottroff Law Office, P.A. in Manhattan, Kansas where he has practiced law since 1979. Though he is well qualified to practice law in many fields, Mr. Pottroff has chosen to limit his practice to railroad law. His leadership and perseverance over the last two decades has had an immeasurable impact on railroad safety in the United States.

Mr. Pottroff is an outspoken advocate for the rights of victims and a proponent of railroad safety. He has been invited to speak throughout the U.S. and internationally. Mr. Pottroff is an active member of the American Association for Justice and the Kansas Association for Justice. He has been inducted into the American College of Trial Lawyers, the Million-Dollar Advocates Forum, and recognized in Super Lawyers magazine for his excellence in litigation. Mr. Pottroff's involvement in railroad litigation dates back to the mid-1980s, but space does not permit an exhaustive account of all his contributions in this area of law. Since the millennium alone, his accomplishments are unparalleled. In March 2000, Bob appeared on CNN in a Charles Bierbauer interview Railroad Safety at a Crossroads. Later that year, at the International Symposium on Railroad-Highway Grade Crossing Research and Safety, he warned states of their accountability for public safety in his presentation entitled States Beware: Shanklin Places Responsibility on You. In that same year, Bob organized the National Railroad Safety Coalition by bringing together victims of railroad accidents and transforming them into a survivors' network with a unified voice promoting rail safety.

In 2001, he was appointed to chair the Railroad Legislative Action Committee for the American Association for Justice. In that role, he drafted model legislation and began a long term commitment to fight for legislative change on a national level.

During 2001 and 2002, Mr. Pottroff took aim at the railroad industry's long standing practice of systematically destroying evidence in accidents where members of the public suffered serious injuries or death. Three verdicts in the span of just over one year resulted in courts condemning this practice and juries awarding verdicts in excess of $40 Million: Stevenson v. Union Pacific Railroad ($2M); Barber v. Union Pacific Railroad ($30+M); and Morris v. Union Pacific Railroad ($8M). This series of cases caught the attention of Walt Bogdanich of the New York Times, who was doing research for a series of stories on railroad safety. The series ultimately won Walt Bogdanich the Pulitizer Prize and Mr. Pottroff the satisfaction of knowing his work in the courtroom and with Mr. Bogdanich would bring about change in the railroad industry.

In 2003, Lewis Laska, publisher and editor of the FELA Reporter and Railroad Liability Monitor, wrote that [Mr. Pottroff] is simply the best railroad crossing lawyer in the United States. In a 2004 brief filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, the Union Pacific Railroad advised that Mr. Pottroff's verdict against them in Barber v. UPRR is by far the largest punitive damages award ever upheld by an American court in a railroad grade crossing case. In late 2004, the New York Times and The Discovery Channel joint ventured a one-hour documentary called Trouble on the Tracks. This documentary featured Mr. Pottroff in his battle for public safety at railroad crossings. In 2005, Mr. Pottroff was presented the Consumer Advocate Award for the landmark case of Ryan vs. Koehler International, Inc.

In 2006 through 2007, he served as president of the Kansas Association for Justice. Most recently, an Anoka, Minnesota jury handed down a $24 Million verdict against the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad on June 13, 2008. Mr. Pottroff was brought into this case to represent the families of four young adults killed in a railroad accident.

Currently Mr. Pottroff is working with Congressman James Oberstar, the Chairman of the Transportation Committee, concerning extensive rail safety legislation in the House and Senate.

Mr. Pottroff has worked tirelessly to unveil the wrongdoings of railroad companies from coast to coast by lecturing frequently and co-counseling with other attorneys who need his help. He has worked on cases in several states, including California, Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Arkansas, Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, West Virginia, Louisiana, Illinois, Missouri, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska, North Dakota and Arizona.

Professional Goals

Robert L. Pottroff is a firm believer that trial lawyers have a unique opportunity to improve the world around us. His lectures challenge every trial lawyer to take this duty seriously. His most gratifying work as a trial lawyer involves representation of injured people and fighting to protect their rights. Over the last two decades, he has been engaged in a protracted battle with the railroad industry over issues of public safety. One such public safety issue is the needless occurrence of death and disabling injuries suffered in preventable accidents. A vast majority of Mr. Pottroff's time is spent representing victims of these tragedies and their families. His battle with railroads will persist as long as the rail industry continues to ignore its responsibility for public safety.

Year Joined Organization:


Areas of Practice:

  • Railroad Law
  • Brain Injuries
  • Personal Injury Litigation

Bar Admissions:

Kansas, 1979

U.S. District Court District of Kansas, 1979

U.S. Court of Appeals 10th Circuit, 1990

U.S. Court of Appeals 8th Circuit

U.S. Supreme Court, 1991


University of Kansas School of Law, Lawrence, Kansas, 1979

Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, USA, 1975
Honors: Cum Laude

Representative Cases:

Nero v. Kansas State University, 253 Kan. 567, 861 P.2d 768

Vetter v. Morgan, 22 Kan.App.2d 1, 913 P.2d 1200 (1995)

State v. Huser, 265 Kan. 228, 959 P.2d 908 (1998)

Manhattan v. Huncovsky, 22 Kan.App.2d 189, 913 P.2d 227 (1996)

In the Matter of the Adoption of S.E.B., 257 Kan. 266, 891 P.2d 440 (1995)

Hill & Co., Inc. v. O'Malley, 15 Kan.App.2d 709, 817 P.2d 660 (1991)

State v. Adee, 241 Kan. 825, 740 P.2d 611 (1987)

Roe v. Diefendorf,, 236 Kan. 218, 689 P.2d 855 (1984)

State v. Johnson, 233 Kan. 981, 666 P.2d 706 (1983)

Classes/Seminars Taught:

Mr. Pottroff has been invited to lecture at state trial lawyer associations across the country. His expertise in railroad law is no secret among his peers, and many have called upon him to share his experience.

Railroad Litigation, Absolute Litigator's Conference in Las Vegas, NV, 2007 - Present

Railroad Law, PESI Fantasy Camp for Lawyers in Taos, NM, April 24, 2007 - Present

American Association for Justice, July 16, 2007 - July 18, 2007

Honors and Awards:

Million Dollar Advocates Forum

Fellow, Kansas Bar Association

Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review Rating of 'AV' (highest possible rating)

Missouri-Kansas Super Lawyers 2006

Professional Associations and Memberships:

Kansas Bar Association

American Bar Association

Kansas Trial Lawyers Association, 2006 - Present

Oklahoma Trial Lawyers Association

Kansas Trial Lawyers Association Eagles Group

Association of Trial Lawyers of America
Sustaining Member

Association of Trial Lawyers of America
Member, Traumatic Brain Injury Litigation Group

Association of Trial Lawyers of America, Railroad Law Section

Association of Trial Lawyers of America
Member, Railroad Litigation Group

Association of Trial Lawyers of America
Member, Firearm and Ammunitions Litigation Group

Brain Injury Association

Association for Transportation Law, Logistics and Policy

Riley County Bar Association

Riley County Bar Association, 1986 - 1987

American College of Trial Lawyers, 2006 - Present

Past Employment Positions:

Manhattan, Kansas, Assistant City Attorney, 1981 – 1988