CSX files post-trial motion seeking new trial in $2.56 million FELA case

Amelia Flood Jul. 14, 2011, 8:12am


CSX Transportation Inc. is asking Madison County Chief Judge Ann Callis to set aside a $2.56 million verdict won by an Indiana man who pursued Federal Employers Liability Act claims over injuries he claimed to have suffered when the train he was riding on hit downed power lines in Kentucky.

Plaintiff Victor Hawkins won the $2.56 million in the May trial of his 2007 case.

CSX filed its post-trial motion July 12 asking for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict and a new trial.

CSX cites a number of grounds in the motion and argues that Hawkins presented no evidence that CSX's negligence caused his injuries.

The May verdict was one of two FELA trials CSX would lose within a month's time.
It also lost a $2.01 million FELA case in St. Clair County June 8.

That suit centered on claims brought by former train conductor Roger Bennett over injuries he suffered due to what he contended was a faulty radio on the train he crewed.

In the Hawkins case, the plaintiff claimed he injured his shoulder when he was thrown forward when the train he was riding upon plowed through power lines that had been downed by a tornado.

The plaintiff contended that CSX could have warned its crew about the downed lines and did not.

Hawkins also claims that he developed Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder following the Kentucky incident as well as by witnessing other fatal accidents on the job.

Hawkins' award broke down:

- $800,000 for pain and suffering

- $775,000 for lost wages and earnings

- $425,000 for emotional distress experienced

- $350,000 for medical expense

- $200,000 for disability

- $10,000 for disfigurement

CSX was then given extra time to file the post-trial motion in part due to the timing of the Bennett verdict.

CSX argues that Callis should have granted it a directed verdict during the May trial.

The railroad also contends Callis erred when she denied its motion to dismiss the case on
the grounds of inconvenient forum on Sept. 26, 2007.

CSX asks the judge to enter an order setting aside the May verdict and order setting aside the September 2007 forum motion denial.

CSX claims that the Hawkins verdict was contrary to the weight of the evidence, that the evidence overwhelmingly favored the defense at trial, and that the showing of a Channel 25 video of the Kentucky tornado was "highly dramatic and emotionally charged."

The railroad also takes issue with the verdict amount.

"The verdict of the jury, which was more than $1 million more than the amount requested by plaintiff's counsel during closing argument, was excessive and influenced by prejudice, passion, or some other improper motive or consideration resulting from the evidence admitted over defendant's objection of the TV video of the tornado and plaintiff's fear of retaliation for reporting an injury, and the Court should order a new trial," the motion reads.

Another course of action CSX asks Callis to potentially take would be to set aside the plaintiff's $350,000 medical award.

David Jones and Andrew Lampros represent Hawkins.

James Bax represents CSX along with Richard Boyle and Mark Favazza.

Ryan Brennan represented Bennett in the St. Clair County case.

Bax represented CSX in the Bennett case.

The case is Madison case number 07-L-084.

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