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Defense Verdict in Class I Railroad FELA Trial

On February 24, 2016, John W. (“Jay”) Baker of Knoxville, Tennessee and Fulcher Hagler partner Jim Purcell secured a defense verdict from a federal jury in Rome, Georgia after a jury trial against a Class I railroad brought by an injured employee.

Plaintiff filed the action under the Federal Employers Liability Act (“FELA”) in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee, but the matter was transferred to the Northern District of Georgia, where Jim joined Jay to team up to try this challenging case.

A large tree had fallen across railroad tracks in Ranger, Georgia and the injured locomotive engineer plowed his freight train into the tree at 41 miles an hour, sustaining a low-back injury, which required surgery. Taking a team approach, Jim and Jay divided trial responsibilities evenly, and landed the defense win after three days of testimony before a jury and District Court Judge Harold L. Murphy.

Plaintiff claimed the railroad should have alerted the train crew to severe weather in the area and inspected the track prior to releasing the train to travel on the subdivision. The jury deliberated less than 90 minutes before returning a defense verdict.