Defense makes case in Union Pacific trial

Amelia Flood Aug. 21, 2009, 2:47am


The trial of a railroad's injury case against his employer, Union Pacific Railroad Company, continued Thursday, ending just before 4 p.m. with defense testimony.

The trial will resume Friday at 10 a.m. with closing arguments and jury deliberations.

The jurors heard expert testimony including that of the vocational consultant who had worked with plaintiff Phillip Roberts since 2008.

Jurors saw excerpts from video depositions including that of Roberts and heard a recording of an interview between Roberts and Union Pacific claims representative Stephen McCartney taken on the day of his accident.

In that recording, Roberts says he did not think an abandoned telephone wire contributed to his fall.

Roberts sued Union Pacific, claiming he was injured while working on a stretch of track in Wood River. The Arkansas native tripped over a telephone wire July 17, 2007.

Roberts claims that he injured his lower back and legs. His suit contends that Union Pacific failed to provide a safe work environment, failed to provide a reasonable pathway, and failed to clear vegetation from the site as required by law.

Expert witness Dr. George Schoedinger III testified Wednesday that Roberts had required surgery to fuse damaged discs in his lower back and that the fall had caused the damage.

On cross examination by defense attorney Thomas Jones, Schoedinger agreed that most men 35 years of age, including a 50 year-old like Roberts, would have disc damage in multiple regions of the spine.

Wednesday's trial was interrupted at least twice, as a juror passed out and had to be taken to the hospital and a juror's cell phone went off during testimony.

Union Pacific contends that Roberts' injuries stemmed from a pre-existing condition and that he contributed to his accident.

A co-worker who had been walking in front of Roberts at the time of the incident testified in a video deposition that he had warned Roberts of tripping hazards. Roberts testified Monday that he had been falling already when the warning was given.

Roberts is seeking damages of $1 million and costs.

He is represented by Daniel Francis of St. Louis.

Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth is presiding.

The case is Madison case number 07-L-905.

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Organizations in this Story

Union Pacific
1400 Douglas St
Omaha, NE 68179

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