20 year New Orleans Public Belt Railroad Company locomotive engineer Michael Dickerson sustained career-ending neck and right knee injuries when the locomotive he was operating in a shoving movement collided with a cut of standing cars.
At the time of the collision, a series of “car counts” were being communicated to Mr. Dickerson by radio. The purpose of these car counts is to count down the distance from the last rail car being shoved to the point of the coupling. However, during the shoving movement, the Public Belt fieldman/helper, who was communicating the car counts, incorrectly judged the distance between the end of the shoving movement and the point of the coupling. Because he was given the wrong distance or car count, Mr. Dickerson collided with the standing cut of cars, causing his head to smash into the side window and his knee to strike the engine’s console.
On the date of the collision, Mr. Dickerson timely reported the injury to his immediate supervisor. Hoping that the injuries would resolve, Mr. Dickerson continued to carry out his normal duties. When the physical effects of the train collision, which included severe radiating neck pain and knee pain, did not alleviate, Mr. Dickerson filled out the proper Personal Injury Report required by Public Belt Operating Rules and Federal Railroad Safety Act regulations. Mr. Dickerson, as required, also had his immediate supervisor sign the Personal Injury Report, a fact which the supervisor later denied.
When Mr. Dickerson attempted to turn in the Personal Injury Report, he was told by Public Belt Management to throw the report away. Instead, Mr. Dickerson folded up the original and placed it in his pocket and produced the Report later during litigation at his deposition. The Public Belt denied all responsibility for the collision and further denied the authenticity of the Personal Injury Report.
In addition, the Public Belt immediately alleged that Plaintiff had forged not only the Personal Injury Report but also the signature of his immediate supervisor.
During the course of litigation, two independent handwriting experts hired by Mr. Dickerson and the Public Belt confirmed the authenticity of the Personal Injury Report, including the signature of Mr. Dickerson’s supervisor. Moreover, Mr. Dickerson volunteered to take a lie detector test on the fact that he was indeed injured in a train collision at work, that he had properly filled out the Personal Injury Report, and that he had his immediate supervisor sign the report as required. Mr. Dickerson passed the lie detector test with “flying colors.” The results were disclosed to the Public Belt, which declined to have its managers take the same test.
In spite of all this, at the jury trial the supervisor continued to deny that he had ever signed the Personal Injury Report.
In the aftermath of the train collision, Mr. Dickerson was required to undergo cervical spine surgery, and later arthroscopic knee surgery, which essentially ended his lengthy railroad career. After a three day trial conducted on Mr. Dickerson’s behalf by our firm, the federal jury returned a gross verdict in the amount of $800,000.00. The jury apportioned 90% fault for the train accident to the Public Belt and 10% fault to Mr. Dickerson. The verdict was consequently reduced by the Federal Trial Judge to $720,000.00.