Matoesian denies Union Pacific in wrongful death verdict

Amelia Flood Dec. 1, 2010, 1:00am

Collignon Gunn

Union Pacific Railroad will not get a judgment different than the $1.25 million verdict a jury awarded the plaintiffs in a combined wrongful death and personal injury suit.

Madison County Circuit Judge Andreas Matoesian denied both of Union Pacific's motions for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict and an amended version of the motion Nov. 24.

Matoesian heard the motions on Nov. 24, although the docket indicated that they would be heard Dec. 10.

Union Pacific lost a September trial in a case brought by Misty Webb, the special administrator of her father, James Webb Jr.'s estate, and by Guy Webb, her uncle.

James Webb Jr. was a passenger in a truck driven by Guy Webb when the two men were hit by a train when they tried to cross Union Pacific tracks located in Iron County, Mo. in 2007.

James Webb Jr. died from his injuries.

His brother survived but suffered massive head and other injuries.
Misty Webb filed suit against both the railroad and her uncle for wrongful death.

Guy Webb settled with his niece and eventually joined her suit on personal injury claims.

The plaintiffs contended that Union Pacific did not put up signs indicating its crews should blow a whistle at the crossing.

They claimed uncut vegetation obscured their view of the oncoming train.

Union Pacific argued at trial that the Webbs were familiar with the unpredictable train schedule and that the railroad was not obligated to put up the signs or blow a whistle because the crossing was private.

The private crossing issue was challenged at length by the plaintiffs, leading Matoesian to declare at one point that "a crossing is a crossing."

Misty Webb won $30,000.

The jury awarded Guy Webb $1.25 million.

In its motions, Union Pacific argued that Matoesian erred by excluding evidence of drug use by Guy and James Webb Jr. prior to the accident among other mistakes.

In the amended version of the motion for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, the railroad pointed to an Oct. 21 decision by the Illinois State Supreme Court relating to sole proximate cause and jury instructions.

In the decision, Ready vs. United/Goedecke Services Inc., Union Pacific argued that the high court allowed defendants to claim that settling parties were the sole proximate causes of the injury, to present evidence of the settling parties fault, and to have the jury instructed accordingly.

The defense argued that in light of the Ready ruling, it should be allowed to assert Guy Webb was the sole proximate cause of his brother's injuries.

The railroad went on to argue that Matoesian's refusal to accept a proposed jury instruction about proximate cause, in light of the Ready decision, was in error.

Matoesian denied both motions.

The judge granted the railroad's motion for set-off on the same day as the denials.

Union Pacific won $100,000 in set-off from James Webb Jr.'s estate.
Eric and Jon Carlson represent Guy Webb.

John Simon and Amy Collignon Gunn represent Misty Webb and her father's estate.

Thomas Jones and Harlan Harla represent Union Pacific.

The case is Madison case number 08-L-1139.

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Organizations in this Story

Union Pacific
1400 Douglas St
Omaha, NE 68179

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