Hoey & Farina, P.C. is pleased to announce that James L. Farina, Designated Legal Counsel, obtained a $1,818,000 verdict on April 17, 2014, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Chicago, IL, on behalf of James J. Niemann, a former railroad conductor, and against the Illinois Central Railroad (“IC”). The jury trial under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (“FELA”) was tried with the invaluable assistance of Matt Liebert, Hoey & Farina’s new Associate Attorney, and Steve Garmisa.
Mr. Niemann, a 52 year old conductor, sustained cumulative trauma from getting off moving equipment at speeds up to 6 mph during his 32 year career working for the railroad. Mr. Niemann’s physical injury required two total hip transplants after he stopped working for the IC at the Markham Yard, Harvey, Illinois.
The IC’s trial strategy was to undermine the credibility of Gerald Harris, Ph.D., a biomechanical expert. Defense counsel first showed his hand when he asked every juror on voir dire if they jogged. IC took the position that Mr. Niemann’s condition was solely caused by preexisting bilateral femoral acetabular impingement (FAI). It further argued that getting off moving equipment cannot cause osteoarthritis and that the practice of getting off moving equipment is safe if done properly. Defense counsel then pitted the IC’s biomechanical expert, Brian Weaver, P.E., against Dr. Harris. Weaver testified that the forces involved in getting off moving equipment were comparable to those experienced when jogging. But defense counsel’s attempts to undermine the Dr. Harris’ credibility about the hazards of dismounting from moving equipment were debunked by Jim Farina.
The defense attorney also called as a witness the former Safety Director for the IC. The former Safety Director affirmed the IC’s choice to ignore the decision of nearly every railroad in the United States to abandon the unsafe practice of having railroaders dismount from moving equipment. The former Safety Director testified that IC employees “begged” the company not to suspend the practice. Members of the jury stated after the verdict was returned that they rejected the company’s attempt to “pass the buck” regarding safety to the employees.
Rather than expose them to cross-examination, defense counsel decided not to call to the witness stand the IC’s economist, vocational rehabilitation witness, or orthopedic expert. The IC relied instead on its strategy of undermining Mr. Niemann’s team of expert witnesses. During closing argument Jim Farina asked how many members of the jury jogged with steel-toed boots on sloped ballast. The final nail in the coffin was delivered by Jim Farina in his rebuttal argument when he asked the jury to imagine themselves on a bus where the bus driver announced that, to save time, it was only going to slow down to 6 miles per hour to let them off.
The last offer by the IC to settle the case was for $100,000. The jury verdict is 18 times the railroad’s “best” offer. Hoey & Farina is proud to have helped Mr. Niemann win his FELA case against the railroad.
If you have any questions regarding Niemann v. Illinois Central Railroad or any FELA matter, please contact Hoey & Farina, P.C. at (888) 425-1212 or email@example.com.