Jury awards $1.1 million for injuries in railroad accident

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 24, 2002

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An Iowa man won $1.1 million from his employer, I & M Rail Link, for an injury resulting from a railroad accident, in what may be the biggest railroad case in Freeborn County’s history. The verdict, which a six-member jury reached late Friday, recognized the negligence of the company in failing to prevent the accident which according to experts like the work accident attorney Vegas firm, makes them liable.

Randall A. Buck, of Nora Springs, Iowa, and Cory A. Carroll, of Albert Lea, were assigned to transport 150 freight cars from Spencer to Mason City on Dec. 1, 1999.

At 12:30 a.m. the following day when reaching the city of Cylinder, they noticed that the train was improperly entering a track and on was a collision course with another train.

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After a last-minute desperate effort to talk with a dispatcher over a radio, Buck jumped from the engine. He injured his left knee landing on the ground. The train crashed into an engine pulling eight cars. Carroll stayed in the engine, ducking under the engineer’s stand, and survived with a minor back injury.

The company insisted that the accident was due to Buck’s failure to notice a caution signal on the switch, a point where a train can switch to another track.

A group of I & M employees working in the area several hours prior to the accident left the switch open and unlocked. The switch target, a signal telling engineers which tracks can be used, was one with red stripes, indicating the track should not be used.

Though Carroll, who was a student engineer at that time, glimpsed the target, he claimed it was not clear. Later, the company found out the device was sunbaked and the target’s red stripes were worn off.

Another dispute was over what caused Buck’s injury. The company asserted that the knee injury could have originated in another incident prior to Dec. 2.

The company also objected to Buck’s claim to include another injury on the left eye caused six months after the accident at his home into the case. The plaintiff’s attorney team attributed the injury to the collapse of impaired knee.

The jury found the company responsible for $226,500 for past damage, wage losses and expenses, and $875,000 for the future.

I & M Rail Link was purchased by the Iowa Chicago & Eastern Railroad Corporation, a subsidiary of the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad. The acquisition of I & M’s 1,125-mile line doubled the size of DM&E system.

The trial was held in Freeborn County because Buck and Carroll originally filed the suit together, but Carroll later settled out of court.

&uot;Railroads have to learn that they have to treat their employees fairly,&uot; the plaintiff’s attorney, William G. Jungbaure said. &uot;I think when they keep doing cost-cutting, eliminating employees, that’s when an accident happens. You’ve got to spend enough money on railroads to be safe.&uot;

&uot;I’ve heard that this is maybe the biggest railroad case ever in Freeborn County, and we are very proud of being associated with that,&uot; he added.