This is the third and final installment of a Straight Track series documenting a three-and-a-half year battle waged by Hoey & Farina on behalf of Frederick Tyrrell against Norfolk Southern.
The history of the case demonstrates the rollercoaster ride which railroads can put the injured employees through as they attempt to obtain just compensation for life altering injuries. More importantly, this case shows the final, joyful result which determined legal representation can bring. [See Straight Track - FRA & Surface Transportation Board Join Forces with HF Against NS & AAR and Straight Track - HF Defeats AAR on Rail Safety Preemption Case for more about this case.]
To recap, Frederick Tyrrell was employed as a student conductor at the Norfolk Southern yard in Bellevue, Ohio when, on June 25, 1998, he was clipped by a black tank car at night while working in a confined space between two sets of live tracks. As Mr. Tyrrell fell to the ground, his lower right leg crossed over the rail and was amputated as the wheels of the tank car passed. Hoey & Farina's on-site investigation established that the Norfolk Southern had violated the Ohio track clearance regulation by three to four inches. The law firm argued that such a violation was negligence as a matter of law and should deprive the railroad of the defense of Mr. Tyrrell’s alleged contributory negligence in walking too close to the adjacent track. The first dip in Mr. Tyrrell’s rollercoaster ride happened when the Norfolk Southern was able to convince the federal trial judge that the Ohio track regulation was pre-empted by a federal statute which the railroad claimed gave the Surface Transportation Board exclusive jurisdiction over all matters of railroad operation and construction (the Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act). If that would have been the final ruling, not only would Mr. Tyrrell had been deprived of any compensation for a traumatic injury as a result of the railroad’s negligence, but the legal precedent would have allowed the Norfolk Southern and all other railroads to ignore all close clearance regulations throughout the country. Moreover, it would have implied that each and every other federal or state railroad safety regulation of any kind was pre-empted as not having been promulgated by the Surface Transportation Board.
Straight Track - "FRA & Surface Transportation Board Join Forces with Hoey & Farina Against Norfolk Southern and Associations of American Railroads" reported that Hoey & Farina, in the appeal of that trial court decision, had convinced the Surface Transportation Board and the Federal Railroad Administration to join forces with it against both the Norfolk Southern Railroad and indeed all the major railroads in this country as represented by the Association of American Railroads. That appeal was argued by five attorneys on January 31, 2001 , and Hoey & Farina promised to publish the appellate court decision. That decision came down on April 25, 2001 , and was an absolute victory for Frederick Tyrrell and railroaders everywhere. The decision was published in Straight Track - Hoey & Farina Defeats Associations of American Railroads on Rail Safety Preemption Case.
On March 5, 2002 , Frederick Tyrrell finally had his day in court. On the third day of trial, just before the Norfolk Southern called its last witness, it requested a brief recess. At that recess, the Norfolk Southern finally offered a substantial sum of money to settle the case. The offer resulted in a final victory for Frederick Tyrrell. The result is that a railroad worker with a serious injury, who once thought all may be lost but trusted in Hoey & Farina, will now be economically / financially secure for the rest of his life.
We, the attorneys and staff at Hoey & Farina, are proud of our role in bringing this just and happy result to our client. Hoey & Farina is committed to the same dogged determination to bring justice to each one of the injured railroaders who entrust themselves to us.