Heyl Royster



Defense Win for BNSF in Railroad Crossing Case


The firm successfully represented BNSF Railway at trial in a railroad crossing case in which plaintiff claimed he injured his back while lifting a man and his electric wheelchair that had been caught in the BNSF railroad tracks at a pedestrian crossing. The lawsuit alleged that BNSF failed to properly maintain the crossing, and that an oncoming train put the wheelchair-bound individual in imminent peril. The crossing in question has two main sets of train tracks bisecting the intersection at an angle. At the time of the incident, the crossing was equipped with active advance warning devices (automatic gates, flashing lights, and a bell).

At trial, the defense presented evidence that there was no immediately oncoming train, including evidence that none of the warning devises were activated at the time of the alleged incident. Plaintiff alleged he sustained a herniated disc and nerve damage in his back and right leg, and related medical bills totaling $147,000. Plaintiff testified that he experiences pain when he attempts to sit, stand, walk or lie down, and that he continues to have to walk with a cane. The defense presented evidence from multiple physicians that revealed no significant findings of back injury, including testimony from plaintiff's treating neurosurgeons that confirmed that his MRI showed only normal degenerative changes. In addition, the defense presented expert testimony in the areas of railroad engineering, and compliance with the Federal Railroad Administration, the Illinois Commerce Commission and other relevant standards. After a five-day trial the jury returned a defense verdict on all counts. Steve Heine, Michele Lindsey, and Tyler Anderson defended BNSF at trial.