Plaintiff Injured in Train Accident Wins $20 Million Verdict

Case Caption: Doug Burchfield v. CSX Transp., Inc., Civil Action File Number 1:07-cv-1263
Court:  United States District Court, Northern District of Georgia  
Trial Judge:  Honorable Thomas Thrash
Appeal From Original Verdict: 636 F.3d 1330 (11th Cir. Ga. 2011)
Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Lyle Warshauer, Douglas Dumont, and Michael Warshauer, Warshauer Law Group
Defendant’s Attorneys:  Robert Casey, Jr., Casey Gilson
Damages: Personal injuries, including two severed legs
Verdict: $20,559,004
Date of Verdict: April 19, 2012

Summary: In 2005, Plaintiff, who was on the job with General Mills, was moving rail cars when one car rolled down hill and struck two other rail cars.  Plaintiff was run over by all three cars; both his legs were severed.  Plaintiff brought suit against CSX Transportation.  CSX was not the owner of the rail car, but was responsible for inspecting and maintaining the car under federal law.    
Plaintiff argued the rail car’s handbrake was faulty, which caused the car to begin rolling down hill and started the chain reaction.  Defendant argued that the handbrake was not faulty and that Plaintiff merely forgot to set the handbrake.  Because Defendant always maintained that Plaintiff was at fault for the accident, it never offered more than $50,000 to settle the case.  The dispute involving the handbrake was exacerbated by Plaintiff’s complete lack of memory of the accident.

In 2009, a jury found Defendant was not liable for Plaintiff’s injuries.  However, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals reversed, finding that it was reversible error to allow the jury to see a reenactment of the accident that blamed Plaintiff for not properly setting the rail car’s brake.  The Court questioned whether there was evidence to show that the video was fairly and honestly made.

On remand, the case was tried for a second time and despite the Eleventh Circuit ruling, Judge Thrash again allowed Defendant to introduce the video reenactment.  This time, however, Plaintiff overcame the video. Plaintiff’s attorneys compared photographs of the actual handbrake to the handbrake featured in the video and proved the actual handbrake was defective. 

Following the nine day trial, the jury returned a verdict of $20,559,004 in favor of Plaintiff.  Shortly after trial, Plaintiff’s attorneys filed a motion seeking an additional $4.5 million in interest on their original demand for settlement of Plaintiff’s claim.

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