Jury Awards $7.5 Million to Railroad Worker Who Developed Leukemia from Creosote Exposure

Railroad workers are exposed to many harmful chemicals in their work on the tracks. A jury recently awarded $7.5 million to a man from Edwardsville in Illinois who developed leukemia after handling creosote soaked railroad ties for Chicago & North Western Railway.

James Brown worked on the railroad for more than three decades. He was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia and claimed the diagnosis was caused by the failure of his employer to provide protective equipment.

Brown’s attorney, David Damick filed a suit six years ago against Union Pacific Railroad, for whom Brown worked for 13 years. He alleged most of the exposure and alleged negligence occurred during the 18 years that Brown worked for Union Pacific’s predecessor, Chicago & North Western Railway, stated a report in the Intelligencer.

Damick said his client was repeatedly exposure to harmful creosote over a period of 18 years.

He argued the railroad knew about the dangers of creosote decades ago but failed to act. In 1986, the railroad received a notice from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency about the dangers of creosote and benzene exposure.

CNW knew about the dangers of creosote and benzene exposure as early as 1986 when they received a notice from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It instructed the railroad to comply with certain safety measures.

Creosote exposure proved harmful to railroad worker
Railroad worker was exposed to creosote

The jury heard the railroad failed to comply with the notice. It did not provide employees with gloves, respirators, goggles, or other protective equipment.

Brown started his work as laborer for CNW in 1976. He frequently loaded and unloaded creosote-soaked railroad ties.

The Dangers of Creosote

Brown often returned home after work covered from head to toe in wet creosote, he testified.

He was diagnosed with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS in 2008. The disease subsequently developed into acute myeloid leukemia, or AML.

During the trial, several medical experts testified that even the smallest exposure to creosote, benzene and carbolineum can cause AML.

The defense claimed that the railroad worker’s exposure to those toxins was in insufficient amounts to cause AML.

The railroads fight cases like this hard. Mr. Brown’s was no exception. Attorneys for Union Pacific questioned the science linking creosote exposure to cancer. They tried to exonerate the giant railroad company on the grounds Brown was employed by CNW when the exposure occurred.

However, the jury in Madison County came close to awarding Brown the $8 million he was requesting when it agreed to a $7.5 million verdict.

Many railroad workers are exposed to harmful chemicals and substances in their line of work. If you are harmed on the railroad or injured, please call me at (866) 455-6657.

John Cooper



Sleep Apnea is Linked to Fatal Arkansas Train Crash

Sleep apnea on the railroads became a big issue in recent months with drowsiness linked to a spate of serious train accidents.

Now federal regulators have ruled a fatigued engineer and a conductor fell asleep just before a fatal collision between two Union Pacific trains in Arkansas.

A report in USA Today noted the crash that occurred on Aug. 17, 2014 in Hoxie could have been prevented by an automatic braking system that has been stalled in Congress.

sleep apnea is a serious issue on the railroads
Sleep apnea has emerged as a major factor in train accidents. It can be treated with CPAP

Railroads missed a number of deadlines for the technology. After a 2008 passenger-train crash in California, lawmakers ordered all railroads to install an automatic-braking system by the end of 2015. The costs led to delays.

They are required to install Automatic Train Control (ATC) by 2018.

Christopher Hart, the board chairman, stated:

“Human operators can be fatigued, impaired, distracted or medically unfit, and they can make errors even on their best days …This technological safety net is indispensable.”

The collision derailed 55 cars and a diesel-fuel spill and a tank car leaking alcohol caught fire. About 500 people were evacuated within 1.5 miles of the crash.

The Arkansas collision derailed 55 cars. It caused a serious diesel-fuel spill and a tank car leaking alcohol caught fire. About 500 people were evacuated within 1.5 miles of the crash zone.

The wreck occurred when a southbound train hit a northbound train as it turned onto an adjacent track. Investigators said the train that was heading south passed through two yellow warning lights and a red signal. There was no sign of the train slowing down and no sign of activity in its cab.

Investigators found no fault with northbound crew members, who were not given any time to apply brakes before the collision. The crew members were seriously injured, but survived the crash.

The southbound train was equipped with an automated alarm that should have sounded and given a visual warning. However, it failed to sound. The safety board previously issued warnings to the Federal Railroad Administration about a glitch in the automated warning system.

Two crew members died on the southbound train. The board concluded they were fatigued and probably asleep.

The USA Today report said the engineer suffered moderate sleep apnea which was diagnosed in 2010. Union Pacific didn’t require him to report his condition. The conductor worked irregular shifts that could have left him fatigued.

The Role of Sleep Apnea in Railroad Accidents

Over recent years rail accidents caused by drowsiness have prompted a change in how railroads treat sleep apnea.

As long ago as 2001 sleep apnea issues were reported among train crews in an accident in Clarkston in Michigan. Sleep apnea is a condition in which airways are obstructed, causing a lack of sleep.

It was a factor in a wreck in Red Oak in Iowa in 2011 and Chaffe, MO in 2013.

William Rockefeller, a Metro-North engineer who is accused of falling asleep at the wheel and causing a crash that killed four passengers in New York’s Bronx in 2013 has sued his former employed for $10 million. He claims the train should have had an automatic braking system that moderated its speed.

Investigators found the engineer of a New Jersey train that crashed into a station in 2016 killing one woman on the platform and injuring scores more, had undiagnosed sleep apnea.

Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers represent people who have been injured in train crashes and the families of those who died across the country. Please call us at (866) 455-6657 for a free consultation.

Conductor Awarded $7 Million for Crush Injuries After Being Ordered Onto Car

john-Cooper-FELA-attorneyBy John Cooper, FELA Injury Lawyer

Working on the railroad often involves daily exposure to heavy moving parts that can kill, crush or maim even at low speeds. Railroad workers are always acutely aware of the dangers of crush injuries and the impact these kinds of accidents can have on their lives.

Recently a case brought by a seriously injured conductor against Union Pacific was settled. All cases are different and we cannot guarantee the result of any given case, but this litigation was settled for just under $7 million.

Worker suffered crush injuries in accident at a silo
Silos can be dangerous places for railroad workers

FELA Reporter noted the 29-year-old conductor was severely injured after he received a radio instruction to “get on up” a railcar as it was pushed by a locomotive at the U.S. Silica Plant in Pacific, Missouri in April 2014.

Although a number of “Close Clearance” signs were posted at the site, the conductor was not able to see them because they were obscured by the utility poles and the train.

Crush Injuries Included Broken Ribs and Other Bones

The conductor attempted to climb on top of the train before it passed the silo but he was unsuccessful. He was crushed between the train and the silo, suffering clavicle, nose, pelvis and femur fractures as well as breaks to vertebrae and several ribs. His liver was lacerated, his bladder was ruptured and his urethra was detached. He needed eight surgeries to correct his many injuries.

As well as his immediate problems, the report stated he may require a hip replacement and a penile implant in the future. These are serious and shocking injuries to occur to a young railroad worker.

He was unable to return to work because of the severity of his crush injuries. He suffers from PTSD and sexual dysfunction, as a result of the accident.

While Union Pacific initially denied liability, the case settled for $6.986 million about two months before a trial. The plaintiff in the case was represented by Jerome Schlichter, Nelson Wolff and Andrew D. Schlichter of St Louis, MO.

The Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) protects workers who are injured on the railroad. In many cases, railroad workers are given instructions to do things that may damage their health. In another recent case, a signalman in his early forties was awarded $128,000 after he aggravated an existing shoulder injury when he was told to move a heavy transformer.

You should not agree to a dangerous task on the railroad. However,  there are many inherent risks of working on the railroad, and you may not always realize the danger of a task you are being asked to do. If you are injured on the railroad, call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers for a free consultation at 866-455-6657.



Carman Sues Union Pacific Over Injuries Caused by Gate on Ballast Car

John-cooperBy John Cooper, Railroad Accident Injury Lawyer

When railroaders are injured by defects on the line, they often have grounds to file a lawsuit against their employer.

An outlet gate on a ballast car was the subject of a lawsuit brought under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) this summer in a case against Union Pacific Railroad Co.

The Madison Record reported on how Charles Davis filed a complaint on July 28 in St. Clair County Circuit Court against Union Pacific Railroad Co.


Davis worked as a carman for Union Pacific. He was injured at work on Jan. 21 while “attempting to close an outlet gate on a ballast car,” the lawsuit states.

The railroad in the case is accused of failing to provide a safe workplace, task and equipment; provide proper and adequate assistance and training, as well as supervision; inspect its equipment; replace a defective outlet gate; and wait until Davis had the proper training to perform the task.

The lawsuit states, Davis suffered injuries to his back, hips and spine, pain and suffering. It also claims for medical expenses.

The plaintiff is seeking damages of more than $50,000, plus costs. He  is represented by Jerome J. Schlichter and Nelson G. Wolff of Schlichter, Bogard and Denton in Belleville.

Equipment failures and defective equipment can have a very serious impact on the health and welfare of workers.

Recently I wrote about a case in Montana brought by a conductor that recently settled for $4.32 million. FELA Reporter noted a conductor on a BNSF train was traveling from Stanford to Great Falls in July, 2011. His track warrant authorized him to take the train to Great Falls Yard but did not warn of any open switches that might divert the train onto another track.

The open switch caused a derailment that injure the conductor. The worker presented evidence at a subsequent trial that he was diagnosed with am L4-5 annular tear which required surgery.  The jury returned a verdict of $4.321 million – $2.2 million equating to the value of wages and lost benefits, $1 million for past pain and suffering and the loss of enjoyment of life, $500,000 for future pain and suffering , $294,213 for past economic loss and $293,658 for the present value of future medical expenses.

If you have been injured on the railroad you should call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 866-455-6657.


Hostler Wins $1.39 Million After Back Injury Driving Union Pacific Vehicle

John-cooperBy John Cooper, Railroad Injury Lawyer

The case of a hostler who was injured on a railroad in California after receiving inadequate training has ended up in a $1.39 million jury verdict.

The hostler was represented by personal  injury attorney Victor Russo of Hildebrand McLeod & Nelson LLP in California.

The case concerned a “non-op” back case against Union Pacific in Long Beach, CA.  The last offer during trial was a mere $350,000.

Russo said in his description of the case that Perry Mack, Jr., worked as a Hostler/Groundman/Crane Operator at Union Pacific’s Intermodal facility in Long Beach when he was injured at the age 52 on March 1, 2011. His supervisor instructed him to operate one of the company’s “Cone” vehicles, which permits the worker to drive along the tracks to access the stacked containers and lock them together with IBC’s.


A Union Pacific train

Russo said Union Pacific had never trained Mr. Mack on this piece of equipment and he informed his boss of the issue.  The supervisor told him, “Don’t worry about it.” Without getting out of the van, the supervisor then gave Mr. Mack about 60 seconds of verbal instruction on how to control the vehicle before sending  Mr. Mack off to work.

At about 1:50 p.m. that day, as Mr. Mack  was driving the Cone vehicle across the rails at the AB break, the machine stopped suddenly, throwing him to the deck. Mack’s attorneys said the railroad violated numerous OSHA regulations that mandate training. Negligent maintenance of the vehicle also contributed to the incident. On the first day of the trial, Union Pacific admitted liability.

Mr. Mack missed three months of work because of his accident. He then returned to restricted duty, which he performed for 9 months until his treating doctor imposed additional restrictions including no prolonged sitting, due to Mr. Mack’s worsening condition. The railroad declined to accommodate him and he went off work in March, 2012.

Six months later, the railroad terminated his employment due to a provision in an agreement. The railroad worker’s union successfully got him reinstated and then the railroad fired him again for alleged failure to provide updated medical information.

The treating doctor and two retained medical experts said that the incident “permanently aggravated pre-existing, asymptomatic degenerative disc disease in the low back,” according to Russo.  A positive EMG test revealed nerve damage, but no recommendation of spinal surgery was made.

Economic and vocational rehabilitation experts testified on both sides at the trial.  The railroad offered $150,000 prior to trial and $350,000 during trial.

The jury returned a verdict of $1,319,263. They awarded past wage loss of $164,521 and future lost earning capacity to the age of 64 in the sum $549,742. The numbers were proposed by Mr. Mack’s economist. The jury also awarded $175,000 for past and $430,000 for future general damages.

If you have been hurt on the railroad you may be eligible for compensation under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). Call us today at 866.455.6657.

Why Slip and Fall Accidents are Common on the Railroad

John-cooperBy John Cooper, FELA Injury Lawyer

Slip and fall accidents are common in dangerous environments such as rail yards. In some cases a railroad may be liable if a slip and fall hazard is present.

Recently I noted a Texas case in which the Court of Appeals reaffirmed a $1.2 million judgment awarded to the family of a Union Pacific carman who died from complications from a broken leg sustained after a slip on mud.

Although railroads are inherently dangerous places, an injured worker or the family of a deceased worker, may have a legitimate claim for a slip and fall under FELA if the railroad has contributed to the dangerous condition or should have rectified it.

In the Texas case lawyers representing the deceased worker’s family successfully claimed a longstanding drainage problem at Union Pacific’s rail yard in Houston created muddy conditions that led to the worker’s fall.


In another recent case relating to a fall, a jury in Montana has returned a $500,000 verdict against BNSF over a worker’s fall from a locomotive crane, leading to a back injury.

A lawsuit claimed a scaffolding violated OSHA’s regulations as well as the railroad’s own rules. Before the trial, the court ruled that the defense was prohibited from challenging the plaintiff’s description of the scaffolding because of its failure to preserve the scaffolding as well as investigation photos and measurements. The railroad claimed the worker continued to work for 18 months after his accident.

If you have been hurt on the railroad you should talk to a FELA slip and fall injury lawyer. Call Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers at 866-45-6657.

Wrongful Death Verdict Affirmed Over Union Pacific Carman

By John Cooper, FELA Injury Lawyer

The Texas Court of Appeals has affirmed a $1.2 million judgment awarded to the family of a railroad employee who died a few days after a fall on the job.

Geronimo Gutierrez had worked 28 years as a carman repairing and maintaining Union Pacific railcars in Houston, according to the case of Union Pacific Railroad Co. vs. Estate of Geronimo Gutierrez et al. In May 2007, he fell four feet while he was climbing on a railcar and broke his left leg, Business Insurance reported.

The carman underwent three leg surgeries and was released from the hospital a week after his accident, court documents state. A few days later, he died from a brain hemorrhage which was linked the anti-clotting medication prescribed by doctors treating his leg injury, according to reports.

Mr. Gutierrez’s family and estate filed a lawsuit in Harris County, Texas, court in December 2009 against Union Pacific under the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). They claimed a longstanding drainage problem at Union Pacific’s rail yard in Houston created muddy conditions that led to the worker’s fall.

Attorneys for Union Pacific argued Mr. Gutierrez took a prohibited shortcut to climb onto the railcar when he suffered his fall. They presented evidence during trial that did not show mud on the railcar or on Mr. Gutierrez’s boots, according to court records.

However, the jury found Union Pacific negligent and awarded $1.19 million in damages to Mr. Gutierrez’s estate and family in the wrongful death suit. Union Pacific appealed the award.

In its unanimous ruling this month, a three-judge panel of the Texas Court of Appeals affirmed the jury verdict. The court said under the federal law, which permits railroad employees to sue for occupational injuries caused by employer negligence, plaintiffs need to merely show that “negligence played any part, even the slightest, in producing the injury or death,” the court said.

Attorneys for the deceased worker “presented evidence of a longstanding drainage problem,” in the area of the fall and presented evidence of mud on his boots.

Cooper Hurley Injury Lawyers have extensive experience of representing injured railroad workers across the country and the families of those who died on the job. Call us today at 866-455-6657.

Union Pacific is Ordered to Reinstate a Railroad Worker Who Was Terminated After an Injury

By John Cooper, Railroad Injury/FELA Lawyer

As an experienced FELA/railroad injury lawyer I see many instances of how railroads seek to punish workers who report work injuries.

Sometimes I’m told this is exactly what people would expect me to say because I represent injured railroad workers in Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia and across the United States.

Here an injured railroad worker describes how he was represented by attorney John Cooper

However, a case from Nebraska in which Union Pacific Railroad terminated a worker who reported a work-related illness, provides further evidence of the way many railroads treat employees who are hurt on the job.

Omaha.com reported on how federal judge has ordered that Union Pacific Railroad reinstate and pay $325,000 in damages to a railroad employee from Nebraska who was terminated after reporting a work-related injury.

Pamela Lakes, an administrative law judge at the U.S. Department of Labor, ordered the Omaha-based railroad to rehire Brian Petersen who was an apprentice machinist in North Platte “as soon as possible” and pay him $325,000 in damages.

Petersen was hurt in 2009 after another employee ran over his foot while parking his vehicle.

“Both employees — including Petersen, because he had been talking on his cellphone at the time of the accident — were disciplined. Petersen was later fired,” reported Omaha.com.

Petersen said the railroad had illegally terminated his job because he suffered a minor injury on the job and turned in the required report. U.P. denied the injury had anything to do with Petersen’s dismissal, even though it occurred just two weeks after he returned to work.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the railroad disciplined Petersen for speaking out and then “fired him for a separate reason to cover up the company’s actions”

This case makes it clear you don’t have to have suffered a major injury for a railroad to retaliate.

If you have been hurt on the railroad you need vigorous legal representation from an experienced railroad/FELA injury lawyer to protect yourself against the railroad.

See our question and answers about railroad worker accidents.

The Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Hampton railroad injury/FELA law firm, Cooper Hurley, handles railroad worker’s injuries and injuries on rail crossings in Virginia, North Carolina and West Virginia, as well as automobile, truck, and motorcycle injuries and slip and fall cases, wrongful death and medical malpractice. John Cooper and Jim Hurley have over 40 years of combined experience in handling catastrophic injury claims. The firm is recognized by other lawyers as “AV” by Martindale-Hubbell, a national attorney rating service, for our top level of legal skill and highest ethical standards. If you need help or advice about a serious injury, please call us at 866-455-6657 or contact us through this website.

Fatal Midland, Texas Railroad Crossing Accident Raises Questions over Crossing Warning

By John Cooper, Virginia Railroad Accident Injury Lawyer

Recently I reported on a tragic railroad crash in Midland, Texas in which four veterans were killed by a train on a float on a crossing and others were severely injured.

Now a report in the Wall Street Journal has raised questions at the amount of warning time given at the crossing.

The report said the crossing was designed to give motorists 30 seconds warning before a train arrived.

But a federal investigation found warning signs flashed and bells sounded at the crossing just 20 seconds before a train hit the parade float with veterans and their families on board on November 15, 2012.

The railroad, Union Pacific Corp., designed the warning system. It claimed the float proceeded onto the crossing after the warning sounded.

Railroad crossing accidents are usually caused by malfunctioning equipment, human error, a failure of a train driver to sound a warning, or recklessness on behalf of a driver on a crossing. Other factors such as overgrown vegetation at the crossing may render a railroad liable.

Railroad crossing accidents can lead to wrongful death lawsuits, if the railroad is to blame. An inadequate safety system at a crossing could leave a railroad liable.

A wrongful death lawsuit has already been filed against Union Pacific over the Texas crash. It was also filed against Smith Industries Inc., an oilfield equipment firm that owned the truck struck by the train, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Read more about our Virginia railroad accident injury lawyers here.

The Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Hampton, VA personal injury law firm, Cooper Hurley, handles automobile, truck, and motorcycle injuries as well as wrongful death, railroad injury cases and medical malpractice. John Cooper and Jim Hurley have over 40 years of combined experience in handling auto injury accident claims. Attorney John Cooper has been named to Virginia “Super Lawyers” since 2010. Cooper Hurley represents people hurt in accidents in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News and throughout VA, and always put the best interests of our clients first. The firm is recognized by other lawyers as “AV” by Martindale-Hubbell, a national attorney rating service, for our top level of legal skill and highest ethical standards. Our motto is: “Your Injury. Our fight.” If you need help or advice about a serious injury, please call us at 866-455-6657 or contact us through this website.

Norfolk, VA Railroad Worker Accident Lawyer Report – Investigators Probe Fiery Oklahoma Train Crash that Killed Three Workers

By John Cooper, Norfolk Railroad Accident Injury Lawyer

When things go wrong on the railroad they can go badly wrong. Take, for instance, the recent head-on collision between two freight trains that left three workers dead in Oklahoma.

Fox News reports human error was the likely cause of this fiery train crash in late June 2012, although federal investigators are still gathering evidence and haven’t yet determined a cause.

The crash between the Union Pacific trains just east of Goodwell, approximately 300 miles northwest of Oklahoma City, killed three railroad employees.

“The ‘very badly burned’ remains of the victims have been sent to the medical examiner’s office in Oklahoma City,” Fox reported.

The only other rail worker on the trains managed to jump free before the collision and the subsequent fireball and escaped with only cuts and bruises.

The National Transportation Safety Board said there was no evidence signals malfunctioned, and one of the trains should have pulled onto a side track as it passed through the flat Panhandle landscape. The track’s speed rating was also being examined.

As an experienced Norfolk, VA railroad accident/FELA attorney, I am disturbed by the circumstances of this terrible crash. Clearly somebody was to blame, leading to the distinct prospect of wrongful death cases being brought against Union Pacific.

These cases, by their nature, are often big money cases. In a recent article on the Virginia railroad accident/FELA lawyer site, I explained how railroad companies fight lawsuits tooth and nail and a large proportion of these cases go all the way to the courtroom.

In the case of the Oklahoma crash, the United Transportation Union identified the dead as conductor Brian L. Stone, 50, of Dalhart, Texas; and engineers Dan Hall and John Hall.
My thoughts are with their families. See our frequently asked questions about railroad worker accidents.

The Norfolk and Virginia Beach based personal injury law firm, Cooper Hurley, handles automobile, truck, and motorcycle injuries as well as wrongful death, railroad injury cases and medical malpractice.  John Cooper and Jim Hurley have over 40 years of combined experience in handling auto injury accident claims.  Attorney John Cooper has been named to Virginia “Super Lawyers” since 2010. 

Cooper Hurley represents people hurt in accidents in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Portsmouth, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Hampton, Newport News and throughout VA, and always put the best interests of our clients first. The firm is recognized by other lawyers as “AV” by Martindale-Hubbell, a national attorney rating service, for our top level of legal skill and highest ethical standards. If you need help or advice about a serious injury, please call us at 866-455-6657 or contact us through this website.