Mont. Jury Awards Former BNSF Employee $1 Million in Injury Damages

September 28, 2007

A Montana District Court jury has awarded a former BNSF Railway employee more than $1 million for a neck injury he suffered while working.

Paul Roney, 61, of Shelby, said he sustained a severe neck injury on April 25, 2002, when he fell while walking alongside a ballast car on a steep curve near the Marias River.

Roney underwent neck fusion surgery and is facing another operation, court records said. Roney, a track inspector, left BNSF in 2003.

Attorney James Towe said Roney was part of a crew applying crushed rock, called ballast, to the railroad bed. He was using a bar to hold open the door the ballast poured out of. Towe said the door did not work properly and there were other ballast cars that could have been used that did not require workers to walk on steep banks.

BNSF attorneys argued that Roney’s injuries were caused by his own negligence. They said that Roney was familiar with the task, location and potential hazards associated with dumping ballast.

“If plaintiff felt it was not safe, he should have found another way to perform the work,” BNSF attorney Jeff Hedger said in court documents.

In its verdict, reached Sept. 18 after a seven-day trial, the jury awarded Roney $467,500 for past and future loss of earnings; $55,000 for loss of services; $41,000 for future medical expenses; and $450,000 for past and future pain and suffering.

BNSF spokesman Gus Melonas said the company does not comment on legal cases.

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