Madison County jury awards $750k in FELA case; cuts award in half

Steve Gonzalez Aug. 21, 2008, 9:00am



After a five day Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) trial in Madison County, a jury awarded Matthew Whitfield $730,000 for a workplace injury. His award, however, was reduced by half because jurors held that Whitfield was 50 percent responsible for his Feb. 4, 2002 accident.

Whitfield filed suit against Amtrak in 2003 alleging he suffered a disability injury while working as an electrician on a locomotive in Indianapolis. He claimed he fell over a door from a panel in the interior hallway of the locomotive causing him permanent injury to his knee.

At trial, Whitfield argued that Amtrak failed to provide him a safe place to work, failed to provide him with safe tools and failed to adequately light the work area where he was injured.

He testified that all of the lights were out in the locomotive and that the work he was performing required two hands making the use of a flashlight nearly impossible.

Amtrak argued that after the incident occurred, Whitfield told his supervisor that it was his fault he fell.

When asked at trial, the supervisor told the jury he still believes it was Whitfield's fault because he told him so right after the accident.

Whitfield testified in addition to knee injury, he suffered injuries to his neck and back all of which caused pain and suffering, lost wages and benefits and medical expenses.

Lakin Law Firm attorneys Charles Armbruster and Michael Blotevogel represented Whitfield at trial.

Mark Kurz of Gundlach, Lee, Eggmann & Roessler in Belleville represented Amtrak.

Madison County Circuit Judge David Hylla presided over the trial.

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