Jurors were being picked in St. Clair County Circuit Judge Andrew Gleeson's court Tuesday for a trial involving a railroad conductor's personal injury case against Alton and Southern Railway.
Plaintiff Paul Brigman is seeking monetary damages for injuries he sustained in January 2011 at the Gateway Railroad Yard in East St. Louis after the engine he was operating and in which he was riding was struck, derailed and knocked on its side. He claims he was trapped inside the derailed engine and suffered head, neck, shoulder, arm, back and leg injuries.
He is represented by Edward Szewczyk of Callis, Papa, Hale and Szewczyk of Granite City.
During voir dire, Szewczyk indicated he would be asking for a "substantial award" for his client for injuries that also include post traumatic stress disorder.
Brigman's suit alleges that the engine he was in was hit by another train leaving the rail yard. Among other things, he blames the railroad for failing to coordinate movement of rail traffic, failing to maintain proper communication with crews, failing to provide adequate lighting and an adequate view of the track ahead and failing to provide stop signs or other traffic controls or signals that would prevent collisions.
Alton Southern, represented at trial by Harlan Harla of Thompson Coburn in Belleville, has denied negligence and asserted that Brigman was at fault for the incident.
"In fact, the incident occurred when Plaintiff ran the locomotive he was operating into the side of a train, having failed to recognize that more than 70 train cars were crossing his tracks until he was less than 15 yards from same, traveling too fast to stop in such distance...and despite the fact that Plaintiff knew such train was preparing to leave Gateway Yard and would cross his path to do so," states a motion for summary judgment.
Brigman countered that on that dark and moonless night he had been instructed to proceed by a yardmaster who also had released an outbound Union Pacific train to travel through the same diamond crossing on an intersecting track.
"He had not been told an outgoing train was going through the crossing and he did not see the train until it was too late," Szewczyk wrote.
Of the approximate 40 prospective jurors, 10 of them - or 25 percent - answered that they had previously been involved in personal injury litigation, either as plaintiffs, defendants or as witness. Five had been personal injury plaintiffs, four had been sued either individually or through business and one was defense witness in a worker's disability claim.
The trial is expected to last five days; concluding on April 25 or 26.