FELA: Railroad man says altered brake equipment on rail car caused him to fall, badly injuring shoulder. $4.38M.


Plaintiff was part of a Union Pacific Railroad crew doing switching movements. FELA case.

The Case

  • Case Name: Joe Pearson v. Union Pacific Railroad Company
  • Court and Case Number: Superior Court of Los Angeles / 19STCV46029
  • Date of Verdict or Judgment: Thursday, May 02, 2024
  • Date Action was Filed: Friday, December 20, 2019
  • Type of Case: FELA
  • Judge or Arbitrator(s): Hon. Graciela Freixes
  • Plaintiffs:
    Joe Pearson, 65
  • Defendants:
    Union Pacific Railroad Company
  • Type of Result: Jury Verdict

The Result

  • Gross Verdict or Award: $4,381,753
  • Net Verdict or Award: $3,913,578
  • Contributory/Comparative Negligence: 90% against defendant, 10% against plaintiff
  • Economic Damages:

    Past and future wage/earning capacity loss: $458,842 

    Future medical expenses and past medical not in evidence: $547,971

  • Non-Economic Damages:

    Past: $1,375,000

    Future: $2,000,000 

  • Trial or Arbitration Time: 14 days
  • Jury Deliberation Time: 1 day
  • Jury Polls: 12-0 on liability and causation, 9-3 on damages
  • Post Trial Motions & Post-Verdict Settlements: None to date; there will be a recoverable cost bill.

The Attorneys

  • Attorney for the Plaintiff:

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

    Kaplan Law Corp. by Jay A. Kaplan, Century City.

  • Attorney for the Defendant:

    Schroeder Schaff & Low, Inc. by Jeremy Schroeder and Simone Leighty, Rocklin.

The Experts

  • Plaintiff’s Medical Expert(s):

    Raymond Klug, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Los Alamitos.

  • Defendant's Medical Expert(s):

    Edwin Ashley, M.D., orthopedic surgery, Los Angeles.

  • Plaintiff's Technical Expert(s):

    Michael Nava, railroad freight operations, Las Vegas, NV.

    John Brault, biomechanics, Mission Viejo.

    Timothy Lanning, economics, Santa Ana.

    Joanne Latham, vocational and life care plan, Simi Valley.

  • Defendant's Technical Expert(s):

    Kevin Garcia, in-house railroad operations and procedures.

    Dr. Elaine Serina, Ph.D., biomechanics and engineering, Hayward.

    Linday Knutson, care costs, Phoenix, AZ.

    Carla Kelly, vocational rehabilitation, Oakland.

    Joseph Pohlot, economics, Los Angeles.

Facts and Background

  • Facts and Background:

    On June 26, 2019, plaintiff was part of a three-man crew working for defendant Union Pacific doing switching movements to build a train of empty freight cars to eventually depart defendant's Valla Yard in Sante Fe Springs. As part of the routine procedures, plaintiff was attempting to bleed-off the residual air from the freight cars pneumatic brakes. When he attempted to pull the bleed valve rod on the subject freight car moving slowly on the yard tracks, he was thrown off balance and fell onto the rock ballast, sustaining a severe shoulder dislocation.

  • Plaintiff's Contentions:

    That the subject freight car's bleed valve rod had been altered by jamming a wooden stick or piece of tie rail into the bleed valve rod and its retainer, causing the rod to be stuck and seized. Plaintiff was surprised and thrown off balance to the rock ballast ground. Plaintiff contended the alteration and modification was likely done by a railroad worker employed by the defendant and that the railcar was not inspected or ordered for repair by defendant.

  • Defendant's Contentions:

    That there was insufficient evidence to show who, when or where the wood was placed in the equipment and that the stick did not alter or interfere with the normal use and function of the equipment. Defendant contended that the stick or piece of wood was not a cause of plaintiff's fall and injuries and that plaintiff should have seen it and stopped the train before attempting to bleed the rail car.

Injuries and Other Damages

  • Physical Injuries claimed by Plaintiff:

    Severe left should dislocation resulting in five failed surgeries to date due to the severity of the shoulder joint trauma and development of a shoulder joint bacterial infection.

  • Defendant disputed the nature and extent of the past and future economic damages. The parties presented different scenarios as to the likely nature and extent of the future medical care required and whether or not plaintiff could have mitigated his damages and returned to some form of gainful employment.

Additional Notes

Defendant's offer at trial was $1,800,000. Plaintiff's demand at trial was $6,100,000.

Counsel notes "Too many scenarios outlined by the experts, dispute related to amounts and scenarios of how many surgeries would likely occur in the future as well as well as whether plaintiff should have returned to some work or mitigated his damages."