Employee claims negligence against railroad employer after truck catches fire. $1.9M. Fresno County.


FELA – Maintenance worker says railroad negligently maintained and designed work truck.

The Case

  • Case Name: Martin v. BNSF Railway Company
  • Court and Case Number: Fresno Superior Court / 18CECG02698
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Tuesday, May 31, 2022
  • Date Action was Filed: Thursday, July 19, 2018
  • Type of Case: FELA, Negligence
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. D. Tyler Tharpe
  • Plaintiffs:
    Lee Martin
  • Defendants:
    BNSF Railway Company
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $1,998,137.40
  • Net Verdict or Award: $1,998,137.40
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: None.
  • Economic Damages:


  • Non-Economic Damages:


  • Jury Deliberation Time: 3 1/2 hours
  • Jury Polls: 12-0
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: None.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

    Krissman & Silver LLP by Jarod Krissman and Ian Deady, Long Beach.

    Kaplan Law Corporation by Jay Kaplan, Los Angeles.


  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Flesher Schaff & Schroeder, Inc. by Jacob Flesher and Brittany Johnson, Rocklin.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Ramy Elias, M.D., orthopedic surgery.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Michael Klein. M.D., orthopedic surgery.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    John Cole, PE, mechanical engineering/fire investigation.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):


Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    Plaintiff, a 32-year-old maintenance of way worker, and his foreman were directed to move a piece of rail with a BNSF boom truck. Shortly after turning on the truck's hydraulic system, a loud noise sounded from behind the cab and the truck quickly became engulfed in fire.

    Plaintiff, sitting passenger, could not exit the truck out the passenger door, which was on fire. In moving across the truck to exit via the driver-side door, his foot caught something in the center console, which caused him to fall out of the truck to the ground below. He sustained multiple orthopedic injuries.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the truck fire resulted from a burst hydraulic line located below the truck, which sprayed flammable hydraulic fluid onto the truck's hot exhaust system, the fire's ignition source. That BNSF Railway Company failed to provide him with a reasonably safe place to work and with a reasonably safe boom truck.

    Additionally, that the truck's hydraulic system, which the railroad upfitted to the truck, was unsafely designed because it lacked a heat shield between the hydraulic system lines below the truck and the hot exhaust system, a competent ignition source.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    BNSF Railway Company alleged the company was not negligent and that the design of the truck's hydraulic system was reasonably safe.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Plaintiff sustained injuries to his left shoulder, left hip and both knees. He has had five operations since the accident.

Special Damages

  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Medical: None.
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Medical: $150,992
  • Special Damages Claimed - Past Lost Earnings: $246,363.40
  • Special Damages Claimed - Future Lost Earnings: $100,782

Demands and Offers

  • Plaintiff Final Demand before Trial: $1,600,000 (Three days prior to trial at pre-trial conference.)
  • Defendant Final Offer before Trial: $450,000 (Three days prior to trial at pre-trial conference.)