$1.9 Million Verdict For Union Pacific Conductor

Omaha, Nebraska
United States District Court

On September 16, 2022, the Hunegs LeNeave trial team of Paul Banker, Joshua Miller, and Randy LeNeave obtained a $1.9 million dollar jury verdict for Christopher Walls, a Union Pacific Railroad Conductor.  Judge Brian C. Buescher presided.

Mr. Walls was a conductor riding the point of a shove movement when a switch was misaligned in violation of 49 C.F.R. § 218.103 and GCOR Rule 8.2. As a result of the misaligned switch, the train was required to come to a stop. When the train stopped, Walls was ejected off the lead car. He was taken by ambulance from the scene with significant injuries to his right leg. Mr. Walls suffered a right tibial plateau fracture, dislocated knee, endured five surgeries including a full knee replacement. His injuries prevent him from returning to work as a conductor for the railroad.

At trial, Mr. Walls attorneys presented expert-opinion testimony from his treating doctors, Dr. John Sojka (orthopedic trauma surgeon) and Dr. David Anderson (orthopedic surgeon).  Retained-expert testimony was presented by Jesse Ogren (vocational rehabilitation) and Jeff Opp (economist).

The railroad was represented at trial by in-house counsel Reha Dallon and outside counsel Gina Rossi, of Hall & Evans.  UP presented retained-expert testimony from Cynthia Bartmann (vocational rehabilitation) and Michael Johnson (AME orthopedic surgeon).

Union Pacific attorneys argued that the damages amount was — at best — $450k and then the money “train needs to stop.”  They went so far as to claimed Mr. Walls was not severely injured, that it was a normal knee replacement, he could return to work as a conductor, and that he was exaggerating his injury and disability.

The jury emphatically rejected the railroad’s arguments and returned a verdict that provided meaningful compensation to Mr. Walls and his family for his injuries.