Union Pacific asks to set aside September verdict; Evidence of 'Ecstasy' use not allowed at trial

By Amelia Flood | Oct 27, 2010

Matoesian The Union Pacific Railroad Company is asking to have a more than $1 million verdict against it in a combination wrongful death and personal injury suit thrown out.


Union Pacific Railroad Co. is asking to have a more than $1 million verdict against it in a combination wrongful death and personal injury suit thrown out.

The railroad filed its motion asking to set aside a September verdict in favor of plaintiffs Misty and Guy Webb.

The Madison County jury awarded $30,000 to Misty Webb, acting on behalf of her father, James Webb Jr.'s estate, and a net verdict of $1.25 million to her uncle, Guy Webb.

The initial award of $2.5 million was reduced by half when the jury found Guy Webb to be 50 percent responsible for the Iron County, Mo. accident that took his brother's life and left him with severe injuries.

A Union Pacific train hit the truck carrying Guy and James Webb Jr. in August 2007.

Union Pacific claims in the Oct. 15 motion that Circuit Judge Andreas Matoesian erred in failing to grant the railroad summary judgment, failing to direct the verdict at the end of the plaintiff's case and refusing to permit the railroad to enter certain evidence at trial.

The railroad centers its argument for setting aside the verdict on the issue of public versus private railroad crossings.

The issue of whether the Iron County crossing where the accident happened was public or private was fiercely argued at several points during the case's trial.

The railroad contended that it was not under any obligation to install warning devices at the crossing because it was private and not publicly used.

Matoesian declared "a crossing is a crossing," and ruled against the railroad on the issue.

"This profoundly erroneous assumption is the foundation for numerous trial errors, the cumulative effect of which denied Union Pacific a fair trial," the defense motion reads.

The railroad argues in the motion that whether the crossing was public or private goes to whether the railroad was required to cut vegetation, what impact it had on its crew's look-out and other elements of the plaintiff's case that the railroad was negligent.

The railroad also argues that Matoesian erred in not allowing evidence that both James and Guy Webb were under the influence of the drug Ecstasy at the time of the accident and excluding defense expert testimony.

The plaintiffs' response is not yet available in the case file.

The Webbs have filed for just under $5,000 in court costs.

Thomas Jones and Harlan Harla represent Union Pacific.

John Simon and Amy Collignon Gunn represent Misty Webb.

Jon and Eric Carlson represent Guy Webb.

Former Madison County Circuit Judge Nicholas Byron was also at the plaintiff's table for Guy Webb and made arguments during the September trial.

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

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