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Injured railroad worker awarded $1.7M for career of harm to back

Though a former railroad worker's back gave out while clearing snow on the job, it was the years of heavy, repetitive lifting required of him that laid the ground work, the man's attorney said. Readers in Orange County may be interested to learn that the man took his former employer, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, to court over a legal dispute concerning whether BNSF's work safety policies caused his permanent back injury.

The jury decided that the company was indeed responsible for the man's injuries. On Feb. 13, it awarded the former railroad worker $1.7 million to compensate him for medical bills, lost wages and other damages.

The worker's back was injured while he was operating a front-end loader to clear piles of snow during a blizzard. One of the piles concealed a metal pole. The front-end loader rammed the pole, throwing the man against the machine's cab and causing his back to pop. Pain quickly developed which continues to this day.

As the attorney described it, the work accident was the culmination of years of unsafe demands BNSF made of the worker. In a pre-trial order, the worker said the BNSF routinely had him lift equipment weighing more than 200 pounds, often in awkward postures that put pressure on his back.

The attorney said that BNSF's attitude toward its workers was to give them back breaking work until they wear out in their mid-40s. "We all owe our employers an honest day's work but not our health,'" the attorney said.

BNSF attempted to blame the man's back injuries on his "age and lifestyle," but the jury apparently was not convinced.

Source: Great Falls Tribune, "Jury awards $1.7 million settlement to man," Michael Beall, Feb. 15, 2013

· Our law firm helps people who have been hurt in work accidents. For more information, please visit our Orange County work accident page.

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