$6 million verdict in favor of a conductor who fell down a flight of stairs inside of a locomotive
The plaintiff was a 49-year-old railroad freight conductor for Union Pacific assigned to take a train from North Platte, Nebraska to Missouri Valley, Iowa. Before the train departed, he tripped and fell over a loose rubber mat while descending interior stairs on the locomotive and suffered brain damage as well as injuries to his neck, back, shoulder, and knee.
After the worker notified the Union Pacific manager of yard operations and reported what happened, the yard manager and safety manager inspected the locomotive and took photographs. During discovery, the railroad failed to produce documents about the inspections and maintenance performed on the locomotive before and after the fall. Although Union Pacific admitted negligence, it challenged the extent of the plaintiff’s injuries and argued that he failed to mitigate his damages. The trial court found that Union Pacific destroyed documents relevant to the litigation and instructed the jury it could draw an inference that destroyed documents contained evidence that would have been unfavorable to UP.
The jury awarded the conductor $6 million in damages.