On June 26, after a five-day trial, a St. Francois County jury returned a verdict of $4.4 million for an injured railroad worker.
Officials said it is believed to be the largest jury verdict in an injury case in St. Francois County history.
Rob Hays of Raymore was working for BNSF Railway Company as a contract employee operating a weld truck with a BNSF rail replacement gang along the Mississippi River a few miles north of Ste. Genevieve.
He was driving the weld truck with a remote control device while standing on a platform on the side of the truck. Rocks from a cut/bluff next to the tracks had fallen and were piled up next to the tracks in violation of the railroad’s clearance standards. Hays did not realize the rocks were a hazard until it was too late and when they hit the bottom of his platform he was knocked off and drug down the tracks.
Hays suffered a fractured pelvis and hip and had to have part of his small intestine removed. He also had ongoing nerve pain in his left leg and foot. He is unable to do the heavy work he had done before his injury but was able to return to office work eight months after his injury. He also suffered from post traumatic stress disorder and depression due to his pain and the limitations from his injuries.
According to Steven Groves, lead counsel for Hays, BNSF denied that it had done anything wrong and blamed the incident on Hays. It also denied that Hays had ongoing problems related to the incident. The jury found BNSF Railway Company 100 percent at fault and also found that the railroad violated a Federal Railroad Administration regulation requiring handrails on the platform.
“For over two years the railroad has been fighting to avoid responsibility and I am glad that the jury did the right thing," Groves said. “Hays feels vindicated because the jury found the railroad responsible and recognized the serious nature of his injuries.”
The case was held in St. Francois County on a change of venue from Ste. Genevieve County.
Hays was represented by Groves and Linda Powers of Groves Powers, LLC of St. Louis and Joe Goff, Sr. of Reeves and Goff of Farmington. The case was assigned to Circuit Court Judge Sandy Martinez who entered judgement on July 14 based on the jury verdict.