Welder's trial in case against Union Pacific begins in St. Clair County

By Christina Stueve Hodges | Jan 30, 2013

Nelson Wolff

A St. Clair County jury listened to opening arguments in Circuit Judge Vincent Lopinot’s courtroom involving an Illinois welder’s case against Union Pacific Railroad over injuries allegedly sustained during the man's 20-year-career.

Plaintiff Donald Currie is suing under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act claiming his injuries ended his career.

“Any company can come into court and deny a claim," said Currie's attorney Nelson Wolff. "The railroad is indeed responsible for causing career-ending back injuries. The railroad has a lot of safety issues.”

Currie says he sustained injuries Jan. 28, 2010, working on the main line track in Springfield while lifting heavy equipment.

He claims the railroad failed to provide adequate and safe equipment and tools, including a truck with a working mechanical lifting device.

Currie also says he worked the main line track in Ina when he sustained injuries to his lower back and to the soft tissues, ligaments, tendons, muscles, blood vessels and nerves of his back and spine.

Currie claims the railroad failed to provide adequate assistance to perform the work and failed to provide him with safe methods for the work.

Wolff told the jury Currie grew up under challenging circumstances. Born to a mother too young to care for him, Currie learned not to complain. He grew up and followed his grandfather into the railroad business.

Wolff told the jury that evidence will show the railroad failed to provide Currie with “a reasonably safe workplace.”

He also told the jury that Union Pacific reduced the size of its crews by 60 percent.

“It was a profit-increasing method," Wolff said. "It put workers like Don at an increased risk for injury."

Wolff said Currie lost his identity and his manhood. He said that Currie still has outstanding medical bills, but the most significant damage was to his career.

“He’s going to face a life of increasing pain,” Wolff added.

Union Pacific attorney Tom Jones informed the jury every story has two sides.

“It’s important to listen to all of the evidence,” he said.

Union Pacific denies negligence. The company claims Currie’s alleged injuries were caused by preexisting conditions, and Currie contributed to his own injuries.

“Somehow he was doing his job differently," Jones said. "They received training on proper lifting techniques."

“All of us every day get old. There’s also a thing called cigarette smoke. It affects the tissues in our bodies. Smoking constricts the blood vessels.”

Currie is a long-standing cigarette smoker, Jones said.

The case is expected to last until mid week next week.

St. Clair County case number 10-L-206.

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