Close to three years ago, John*, 34, was an assistant signalman with three years on the job with LIRR.
One morning while running innerduct under a platform, a large piece of concrete debris – a leftover from an old platform – broke off pinching his right wrist and trapping him under the platform. A coworker had to lift the concrete off his wrist. What he thought at the time was an injury he could work through and recover from, turned out to be career ending.
John reported his injury and was temporarily removed from service pending a visit to an orthopedist the next day. That began 22 months of referrals to specialists and four separate EMG studies, because John developed clawing of his ring and pinky fingers. With that also came 50% loss grip strength in his right, dominant, hand. The railroad medically disqualified him from his job 10 months later.
This month a jury ordered LIRR to pay John more than $3 million for his injury after it was revealed that the railroad knew about the old hazardous concrete but didn’t make any effort to remove it. What is remarkable about this case is how the verdict numbers break down:
- $189,122.64 for past lost wages
- $2,000,000 for future lost earnings
- $100,000 for past pain and suffering
- $900,000 for future emotional distress
Total verdict: $3,189,122.64
The bulk of the verdict is for future lost earnings. The railroad was forced to pay for all those years John could have worked had he not lost strength in his dominant hand.
The second largest number, $900,000, was awarded for John’s future emotional distress. During trial John talked about how difficult it was for him, a grown man, to have to ask his parents for money after he couldn’t find work outside the railroad. The jury recognized that this injury will plague John for the rest of his life. That $900,000 for future emotional distress, and the $100,000 in past pain and suffering, were only awarded to John because as a railroad worker he is protected under FELA rather than workers’ compensation. That’s $1 million this railroad worker would have lost out on had he been under workers’ compensation. Click here to understand why railroad workers’ compensation doesn’t exist.
*I've changed my client's name to protect his identity. Photo by Marc Wietzke
Read about another injury verdict with a big payout. Download the case study.