Andrew Evans and Alex Yarbrough recently obtained a jury verdict in favor of their client, BNSF Railway Company, in Potter County district court. Plaintiff Kelly Neal, age 40, worked for BNSF as a carman inspecting trains in the yard. Neal sued BNSF under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act claiming that years of walking on ballast in the yard caused deterioration and inflammation of his right hip joint. Neal further claimed that he tore the labrum in his right hip due to a slipping incident involving a brake shoe rack in the yard. Neal underwent surgery on his right hip and was unable to return to work as a carman. He sought $750,000 in lost earnings and other compensatory damages in his petition.
Evans and Yarbrough defended BNSF by showing the jury that BNSF provided Neal with a reasonably safe place to work. The jury was able to view photographs and videos of the conditions of the yard and the job duties of a carman. The evidence revealed that employees such as Neal are offered many opportunities to report unsafe conditions and have them corrected. More importantly, however, Evans and Yarbrough provided evidence that Neal did not report the alleged slipping incident as required by his safety rules. The evidence also showed that Neal was inconsistent in providing his doctors with his medical history and explanation of his hip problems. Finally, the evidence revealed that Neal suffered from a developmental deformity in his right hip, and this deformity can cause labral tears and deterioration of the hip joint.
After a five day trial, the jury deliberated for 65 minutes before returning a unanimous “no negligence” verdict in favor of BNSF.