A recent appellate decision affirmed an enormous jury verdict in favor of a railroad worker who was paralyzed while on the job. The railroad worker, Eric Doi, sued Union Pacific Railroad under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) after a co-worker lost control of a company vehicle and crashed, causing Doi to become paralyzed. At the time of the wreck, Doi and the co-worker were going to Wal-Mart to buy food and drinks to be consumed while at work. The big question on appeal was whether Doi and the driver were acting within the course and scope of their employment with the railroad at the time of the wreck.
The FELA provides that a railroad is liable to a railroad employee that suffers injury as a result of the negligence of an employee of the railroad. After a thorough and well-reasoned analysis, the Court of Appeals found that Doi and the driver were acting within the course and scope of their employment in that the act of going to buy food and drink to be used at work constituted conduct that was “incident to” the work they were going to be performing later in the day.
While the jury’s verdict was huge, Doi’s damages were unbelievably horrible. Some people see or hear about a large verdict and immediately conclude that the jury made a mistake, but in my experience juries make the correct decision in the vast majority of cases.
Just a few of the issues Doi must now deal with after becoming a quadriplegic include having no feeling below his nipples and no control over his bladder and bowels. His penis has to be catherized several times a day, and the stool in his bowel must be physically removed from his body each day. He can no longer have sex. He suffers from frequent pressure sores. As a result, he has to be turned every 15 minutes, and this happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. He experiences swelling in his feet and legs, severe headaches, bladder infections, and abnormal bone growth in his hip that will require surgery. He must have nursing care 24 hours a day. He now suffers from clinical depression and has been diagnosed as having post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) His life expectancy is 29 percent less than it was before the wreck. At the time of the crash, Doi enjoyed numerous outdoor sporting activities and was about to marry and start a family. Instead of thinking about marriage, his thoughts now focus on committing suicide, and he has trouble envisioning anything meaningful in his future. Nursing and medical care alone will likely exceed $25 Million over his lifetime. With harms and losses like these, the verdict seems just.
At Davis Law Group, we help injured railroad workers recover the compensation they deserve. We have handled serious injury cases involving quadriplegia, brain injury and amputations. If you have suffered a serious injury while employed by a railroad and would like to consult with an experienced FELA attorney, give Brian Davis at Davis Law Group a call. The consultation is free.