Railroad worker awarded $20.5M after workplace accident

A railroad worker recently was awarded $20.5M after losing his legs in a workplace accident. The worker was a General Mills employee moving railcars near the company’s Georgia cereal plant in 2005. The railroad cars were loaded with grain when three of the cars broke loose and ran over the worker, severing his legs.

This is an example of a “third-party claim,” which is common in severe workplace accidents. In addition to pursuing a workers’ compensation claim against his employer, the worker was able to successfully hold the railroad company liable for its negligence.

The worker sued alleging that the railroad company was negligent because its railcar had insufficient hand brakes in violation of the Hand Brake Act and other federal regulations. The worker specifically alleged that the railroad company intentionally decided to reduce its inspection forces and not to perform adequate inspections for cost-cutting reasons.

The lawsuit alleges that the railroad company’s decision to skimp on inspections “exhibits an intentional, callous and wanton choice to place profits over human safety.”

A jury found the railroad company 100 percent liable for the worker’s injuries, awarding him $20,559,004 in compensatory damages. The railroad never admitted liability for its inactions in this case and claimed that the workers injuries were solely due to his own negligence.