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$________ Federal Locomotive Inspection Act violation - Inadequate cab seats - Rough-riding locomotives - Poorly maintained locomotive seats and rough track conditions - Excessive vibration resulted in cervical and lumbar injuries - Premature spinal degeneration.

U.S. District Court, District of Montana

In this negligence action, the plaintiff, a locomotive engineer, alleged that the defendant violated the Federal Locomotive Inspection Act (FELA).

The plaintiff contended that inadequate and poorly maintained seats in the cabs of the defendant’s locomotives, as well as rough-riding locomotives and rough track conditions caused the plaintiff to sustain cervical and lumbar spine injuries. The defendant denied the allegations.

The plaintiff was employed by the defendant Montana Rail Link as a locomotive engineer for 16 years. During this period, he operated a wide variety of diesel locomotives, which were equipped with seats commonly used throughout the railroad industry in the country. The plaintiff alleged that over 95% of the locomotives that he operated over the course of his employment with the defendant were owned and maintained by defendant BNSF Railway Company and its predecessor railways. During the fall of ________, the plaintiff began to experience significant cervical and lumbar pain that progressed to the point that the plaintiff sought medical attention. In December ________, the plaintiff’s physician removed him from work and conducted MRI scans that disclosed that the plaintiff had mild degenerative changes to his spine and bulging discs at C5,6 and L4,5. The plaintiff sought a surgical consult which resulted in a determination that the plaintiff was not a surgical candidate. The plaintiff was eventually advised that he should seek alternative employment.

The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant alleging that the defendant violated FELA. The plaintiff alleged that the locomotive cabs had inadequate seating, rough-riding locomotives, poorly maintained cab seats and locomotives and rough track conditions, all of which contributed to his injuries. The plaintiff brought forth four co-workers who also testified as to these conditions.

The defendant vigorously denied the plaintiff’s allegations. The defendant brought forth forensic testimony to dispute the plaintiff’s allegations.

Following a six-day trial, a six-member jury unanimously rejected the defendant’s defenses and returned a verdict for the plaintiff. The jury specifically found that the defendant violated FELA, that such violation caused the plaintiff’s spinal injuries, and awarded the plaintiff $________ in damages.

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