On October 23, 2003, Gary Pierce, a 26 year old conductor employed by Chicago Rail Link ("CRL), was struck by a moving locomotive during a switching move at a CSX intermodel facility. Mr. Pierce suffered catastrophic injuries, including permanent spinal cord damage.
Hoey & Farina was retained hours after the incident to represent Mr. Pierce, and began an immediate investigation. The discovery process revealed that CRL's locomotive engineer violated 49 C.F.R. §§220.45 and 220.49, the "Radio Rules", by commencing movement of the locomotive on an incomplete radio command.
The trial began on June 26 2006, in the United Stated District Court, Northern District of Illinois. Under the Federal Employers' Liability Act Mr. Pierce had the burden of proving to the jury that CRL's negligence caused his injuries. However, Mr. Pierce had no memory of the accident, there were no eye witnesses and almost no physical evidence at the scene. All liability evidence was presented through expert witnesses and state of the art computerized accident reconstruction animations. After two weeks of presenting evidence of CRL's negligence, the jury was asked whether CRL violated the two Radio Rules. The jury answered "No" to both questions and returned a ‘not guilty' verdict in favor of CRL, based in large part upon a novel and distorted interpretation of the Radio Rules argued by CRL's attorneys at trial.
Yet, because of the sound expert evidence presented at trial, and believing that no rational jury could have failed to find that CRL violated the Radio Rules, Hoey & Farina immediately filed a motion with the federal trial judge requesting that he overturn the verdict and grant a new trial. On November 20, 2006, the federal judge issued his lengthy written opinion overturning the jury verdict. The Court stated that there was "no plausible basis to sustain the jury's finding" and that the verdict was "contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence." The Court concluded that CRL's interpretation of the Radio Rules was flawed, and granted a new trial for Mr. Pierce. Such an extraordinary ruling by the trial judge in overturning a jury verdict, without the necessity of an appeal, is extremely rare. Rather than proceeding to a second trial, CRL agreed to settle the case, and provided Mr. Pierce with, among other compensation, a substantial lifetime annuity.
Hoey & Farina railroad injury attorneys overcame nearly insurmountable odds due to the lack of hard evidence to ultimately bring victory to a disabled railroad employee. Tenacity, dedication and hard work are of what such victories are made.