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Rick Shapiro
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$48 million FELA Verdict To Railroad Signalman Who Suffered Paralysis Upheld by Judge

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After a jury awarded $48 million to a former Union Pacific Railroad signalman who suffered paralysis, Union Pacific filed all kinds of legal motions to set aside the California jury’s verdict. But the Judge upheld the jury’s verdict in favor of Eric Doi, who received the largest verdict ever for a plaintiff under the FELA (Federal Employers Liability Act, a federal law that protects railroad workers are hurt on the job). UP’s lawyers indicate they intend to appeal the verdict to a higher court despite being rebuffed on post trial motions.

The 30-year-old UP signalman, was a passenger in a company-owned truck, when his co-worker became distracted and lost control of the vehicle and rolled down a bank, and crashed into oncoming traffic on the highway. The signalman was left a quadriplegic (paralysis of all limbs, at least to some extent) and now needs care, rehabilitation, and relies on nurses and other medical providers to assist with his daily activity.

“In that split second – it happened so fast – my life changed,” said Doi, a railroad signalman who had traveled from his home in the San Gabriel Valley to Tucson for work. A certified emergency medical technician, Doi said “I couldn’t move my legs, and my arms were kind of flailing…I knew what the injury was, but at the same time I was hoping I was just in spinal shock … I was hoping for the best.”

According to various reports UP tried every argument to avoid liability, even though its fault was fairly obvious because under the FELA any co-worker negligence is considered negligence of the railway itself. In any quadriplegia/paralysis case, an attorney representing a victim must interview and organize all the medical professionals and experts to prove the past and future medical requirements of the paralyzed worker. Also, consultants must be retained to prepare what is called a life care plan, which essentially is a plan designed by a nurse or medical expert to consider all expenses for various types of medical necessities, nursing care, wheelchairs and other appliances necessary to the best possible medical care, as well as consider and prove the extreme psychological and psychiatric issues always associated with such cases. His lawyer, Donald Britt, did a fine job of representing this worker and in proving UP’s liability and responsibility.

In the mid-90s, our Virginia-Carolina railroad injury law firm represented a conductor who became a quadriplegic after suffering a terrible accident in Virginia at a railroad yard. After a tremendous legal battle against the railroad, we obtained a (record) confidential settlement for the worker and his family, but the railroad involved and the amount is confidential. Our injury law firm worked on that case, and dozens of major injury settlements/verdicts since, with life care planners, rehabilitation experts, nurse consultants, surgeons and medical doctors, as well as with medical illustrators who create custom images to demonstrate the extent of injuries suffered.