St. Louis County Jury Awards $250,000 to BNSF Switchman

A Duluth, Minnesota jury awarded a BNSF Switchman $250,000 for injuries sustained in the railroad switching yard at night. The April 2014 trial was the result of BNSF’s typical hard line position. They offered our client, Shan Martineau, nothing in spite of his fractured thumb, injured hand and a hernia suffered during physical therapy/work hardening.

Mr. Martineau worked closely with the BNSF giving statements, releasing his medical information and meeting with the company nurse. After the railroad collected the information, photographed the area and analyzed the medical records, they chose not to take any responsibility for the injury.

The BNSF argued Mr. Martineau simply was not watching what he was doing and tripped over a switch.  At trial BNSF agreed that Switchmen need safe walkways because they are doing many tasks, “their heads are on a swivel”. The BNSF admitted there was a drainage problem in the area which made it necessary to dig out the railroad ties. The BNSF photographs clearly depicted the ties protruding well above the ground. The incident took place in the dark hours but the railroad company was confident his lantern was adequate. At trial the BNSF attorneys turned the lights off in the courtroom in an attempt to demonstrate that the lantern provided safe amount of light.

The jury apparently rejected that BNSF’s claim when they awarded $250,000 and apportioned 100% fault on the railroad.

St. Louis County Judge Dale Harris presided over the trial.