$5,445,000 award for a diesel mechanic that sustained a lower back injury when he slipped on a patch of diesel fuel
The plaintiff was a 37-year-old diesel mechanic for Union Pacific. At the time he was injured, he was using a pipe wrench to repair a leaking fuel pre-heater on a locomotive. The worker slipped on a patch of diesel fuel while pulling on the pipe wrench. Within one week of the accident, he was diagnosed with a large inguinal hernia and an intervertebral herniation with radiculopathy.
At trial, the plaintiff alleged that he brought the spill to the attention of his supervisors, but they
refused his request for assistance with performing the repair. He also argued that Union Pacific failed to provide him with proper tools and that Union Pacific did not have a functioning water supply available to clean the spilled fuel in the work area.
The railroad contended that a pipe wrench was an appropriate tool for the job, that the plaintiff over-exerted himself while trying to loosen the fitting, that he did not properly brace himself, and that he failed to use available fuel spill pads to clean the fuel spill area.
The jury awarded the plaintiff $9 million but assigned 60.5% liability to Union Pacific and 39.5% to the plaintiff. As a result, the jury’s award of $9 million was reduced to $5,445,000.