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Missouri Court of Appeals Affirms $5 Million Verdict for Injured Railroad Worker

On June 25, 2019, in a unanimous opinion, the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed a $5,080,000 jury verdict for a disabled railroad worker.  James Mitchell, of Seymour, was injured on August 27, 2015 while working as a conductor in BNSF Railway’s Springfield Yard. He fell while descending a railcar when a defective ladder broke, causing Mitchell to fall to the ground on his back. The ladder had been damaged earlier that evening when another train derailed on the neighboring track.

Over the next 16 months Mitchell required surgeries on his low back and shoulder. He returned to work, but was reinjured on February 23, 2017, while operating a defective pin lifting lever to separate railcars in the same railyard. Although Mitchell received several spine injections, chronic back pain disabled him from railroad work.

At trial, BNSF denied responsibility and claimed that Mitchell was to blame. Orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Paul Olive, testified that Mitchell will require multiple spine fusions in the future and work restrictions are necessary to protect his spine from further damage. According to attorney Nelson G. Wolff:

Jamie Mitchell was a loyal railroad worker. But, when he was injured due to multiple unsafe working conditions in the Springfield Yard, BNSF denied responsibility and blamed him. This verdict restores his reputation as a valuable employee and provides him with money needed to pay for significant medical needs and to take care of his family.

The case is styled as James T. Michell v. BNSF Railway Co., Mo.Ct.App. Case No. SD35586.