Defense verdict reached in personal injury trial against Norfolk Southern

Steve Gonzalez Nov. 20, 2008, 3:00am

Dr. Paletta

Judge Stack

Charles Swartwout

After deliberating four hours on Wednesday afternoon, a Madison County jury returned a defense verdict in favor of Norfolk Southern Railway.

The plaintiff, Charles Moore of Granite City, sued Granite City Steel, Norfolk Southern Railway and Luria Brothers in 2000, alleging his left leg was traumatically amputated while working for Granite City Steel.

Granite City Steel and Luria Brothers settled prior to trial leaving Norfolk as the only defendant.

During the week-long trial, Moore testified that he did not remember the accident that took place Dec. 31, 1998, until nearly a month later.

Moore had been attempting to open a frozen drawbar and coupling mechanism on a locomotive derrick crane, when a railroad car that had its handbrakes removed rolled down an inclined track crushing him between the crane and railroad car.

Representing Norfolk, Charles Swartwout and Andrew Corkery of Belleville argued that Moore failed to follow Granite City Steel safety rules and regulations, failed to ensure that the wood used to brake the railroad car was sufficient and adequate to do the job and placed himself in a position of danger by stepping in between the rails to attempt to move the allegedly frozen drawbar.

Moore testified that prior to the accident, he "loved to dance after a couple of drinks" and had no limitations on what he could do.

"Whatever popped up we would do it," Moore said.

Moore also testified that prior to the accident, he would play catch with his grandkids, play basketball and even wrestle with his grandkids and now is unable to do any of those activities.

"I cannot give the grandkids the kind of attention I want to," Moore said at trial.

He also testified he "gets depressed" and sits around the house wondering "why me?"

As far as his amputated leg, Moore testified he feels "phantom pain" in his leg and most times it feels like someone is stabbing him with a screwdriver.

Moore's doctor, Christian Paletta from St. Louis University Hospital, said Moore also suffered extensive damage to his colon and pelvis, making a prosthetic device impossible.

"Charlie still has a portion of his pelvis, but is missing pieces," he said.

Paletta also testified that Moore "was lucky to be alive."

When asked if Moore's life expectancy had been shortened, Paletta answered, "If Charlie had a twin brother, I would expect the twin to outlive him."

"However," Paletta said, "one could argue that since he is under constant medical attention, that could benefit him since his blood pressure and cholesterol are constantly checked."

At trial, Moore's lawyer, John Kujawski of O'Fallon, attempted to prove that Norfolk required Moore to work with defective, worn out and disrepaired equipment and appliances, removed the handbrake and braking system on the railroad car, required him to work on an inclined surface when the railroad cars did not have brakes and failed to provide him with proper equipment to perform his tasks.

Norfolk countered that Moore turned his back on a piece of rail equipment without having a spotter to ensure he had adequate warning if it began to move and failed to alert his supervisor that the railcar did not have handbrakes.

Moore's wife, Peggy Moore, testified that she had been damaged because she has suffered a loss of consortium in that she has been deprived of her husband's society, companionship and conjugal relationship.

Kujawski recommended that the jury award the Moores in excess of $3 million.

Circuit Judge Daniel Stack presided over the trial.

The jury was comprised of five men and seven women.

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