Appellate court grants time to Union Pacific in FELA case

By Amelia Flood | Jan 25, 2010

Union Pacific Railroad Company has until Jan. 26 to file its appeal and supporting documents with the Fifth District Appellate Court in a Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) case brought by a trackman who tripped over a wire along its tracks in Wood River three years ago.

That man, plantiff Phillip C. Roberts of North Little Rock, Ark., won $250,000 in damages in an August trial last year.

However, presiding judge Madison County Circuit Judge Dennis Ruth set aside the damage award after both Roberts and Union Pacific objected to the amount. Ruth ordered a new trial on damages only Dec. 2.

Roberts sued his former employer, claiming the company failed to clear debris and a telephone wire from its Wood River site.

During testimony at the August trial, Roberts acknowledged that he had been warned about trip hazards prior to his fall.

The trial was interrupted first by the collapse of an elderly jury member, a power outage and a juror's cell phone ringing.

The jury awarded $500,000 in total damages but reduced the amount by half, deciding that Roberts was also responsible for the trip that led to injured discs in his back.

Union Pacific filed for leave to appeal shortly after Ruth ordered the new damages trial.

The appellate court entered its order Jan. 6.

The case is set for case management in Madison County Jan. 27 at 9 a.m.

Roberts is represented by Daniel Francis.

Union Pacific is represented by Thomas Jones and Harlan Harla.

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

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