Nielsen v. BNSF Railway Co.

KTP wins $600,000 verdict for injured rail worker’s back injury

Problem: Steve’s client, a conductor with a route through the Columbia River Gorge, injured his back after his locomotive bottomed out on a soft patch of track just inside an unlined tunnel, throwing him forward and twisting his torso. He had a previous back injury in 1986 that the new injury aggravated. He was in severe pain, could not work, and his physical condition was deteriorating. Various doctors disagreed on the precise medical cause of his back pain.

Solution: First, Steve had Mr. Nielsen evaluated and diagnosed by a physical therapist specializing in back pain, who also developed a physical conditioning regimen that the client faithfully followed. Then, Steve sent the client for a discogram, which objectively confirmed the sources of the client’s pain through blind pain tests and detailed imaging of suspect discs. A professor of biomechanics corroborated that the method of injury would produce the physical signs of injury observed in the discs. A former inspector for the Federal Railway Administration found BNSF’s track ballast and drainage at the problem spot in violation of FRSA standards. When BNSF would not make a realistic offer, Steve and Rick took the case to trial. The jury awarded Mr. Nielsen $614,750 after deducting $110,250 for wages it felt he should have been able to earn during his disability.