Trackman files suit against Union Pacific

By Steve Gonzalez | Sep 12, 2008

A trackman for Union Pacific Railroad has filed a Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA) complaint against his employer, alleging they failed to provide him a safe place to work.

James Patrick Waites alleges he was injured in Chester on Sept. 2, 2005 while working on a "tie gang."

According to the suit filed Aug. 27 in federal court, Waites primary duty was to retrieve discarded tie plates that lay along Union Pacific's tracks.

Waites alleges that each tie place weighs ten pounds. In order to retrieve each one, a trackman uses a long metal hook to pick up the place, followed by a "hurling motion" to throw each plate toward the tracks.

"When performing this job, the plaintiff was required to lift at least 1600 plates per day, and often lifted as many as 2,600 per day," the complaint states.

Waites claims on the day he sustained his injury, Union Pacific assigned him and one other man to lift tie plates on a steep track embankment.

He claims halfway through his shift of throwing the ten pound plates uphill, he experienced pain in his low back and waist and later even developed swelling.

"Ultimately, the plaintiff was diagnosed with sacroiliac joint dysfunction," the complaint states.

A painful sacroiliac joint is one of the more common causes of mechanical low back pain and sacroiliac joint dysfunction is a term that is used to describe the condition - because it is unclear why the joint becomes painful and leads to pain.

Waites claims Union Pacific violated the provisions of FELA by negligently failing to provide proper personnel, tools and training to prevent injury.

In addition, Waites alleges Union Pacific failed to promulgate, follow and enforce reasonable rules customs, practices and policies for his protection.

He claims by breaching the statutory guidelines of FELA, Union Pacific knew or should have known it was reasonably likely that he and other employees would suffer bodily injury.

Waites claims his injuries caused and continue to cause physical pain and suffering, emotional pain and suffering, impair his ability to perform work, household and leisure activities, disfigurement and lost wages and fringe benefits of employment.

He seeks a judgment for a "fair and reasonable" amount to compensate him in excess of $75,000, all pre- and post-judgment interest allowed by law and costs of the suit.

Waites is represented by Jarrett Johnson of Hubbell, Peak, O'Neil, Napier & Leach of Kansas City.

The case has been assigned to District Judge William Stiehl.

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