$5,750,000 Railroad Burn Death Result
A husband, father of two sons, and railroad conductor, lost his life after the train he was working on collided with a gasoline truck in Chalmette, Louisiana. The train wreck resulted in a massive explosion causing third-degree burns over his entire body. Suffering for 10 hours before his death, this husband and father never made it back home from his railroading work that day. His widowed wife and sons brought wrongful death and survival actions against the railroad, the trucking company, and the companies in charge of the highway design. The settlement obtained in the case provided the railroad conductor’s widow and sons the wages and benefits he would have earned over the rest of his railroad career.
For Carisa Oden, the magnitude of this railroad worker losing his life while working a job that he loved fueled her desire to earn her law degree to continue protecting railroad workers and their families. When Carisa started working on this case as a paralegal, and then as a law clerk during law school, she was tasked with evaluating the life of this husband, father, and railroad worker. Her research and work on this case helped provide compensation for the widow and her sons after the untimely death of their father. Once Carisa became an attorney, she helped finalize the settlement for this railroader’s family. After spending 17 years at her prior firm, Carisa opened Poolson Oden with her partner Danny Poolson, to focus on the lives of railroad workers and helping those workers and their families through the most difficult of situations imaginable.*
$5,000,000 Wrongful Death Verdict
A father lost his daughter in a pedestrian/motor vehicle accident in Louisiana. The Louisiana Democratic party sent a young worker to walk dangerous rural roads and knock on doors to encourage residents to vote for a candidate. The Democratic party made no efforts to determine if the road was safe for pedestrians. Despite a $20 million campaign budget, the Democratic party refused to purchase high-visibility vests, also known as personal protective equipment (PPE).
The accident happened when a distracted, intoxicated, and impaired driver drove 12-18 inches off the roadway striking the young worker in the back. The Democratic Party blamed the death completely on the truck driver, who had narcotic medication in her system. The jury ultimately disagreed, returning a verdict of $5,000,000, holding the Democratic Party partially responsible for the death of the young worker. Following the verdict, the father of the victim was able to purchase a family home where the father’s three other children and their children could spend time together as a family.*
$4,000,000 Burn Death Explosion Result
A 40-year old father and Jones Act seaman lost his life when the offshore diving vessel he was working on as a chief engineer exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. His family brought wrongful death and survival actions against the owner of the vessel and the seaman’s employer. The engineer miraculously survived the explosion but suffered for 38 hours before dying from his burn injuries at the Baton Rouge Burn Unit. It was discovered during the case that the seaman’s employer had violated a number of federal regulations during the pipe project where the Jones Act seaman was a part of the crew. A settlement was reached before trial helping the seaman’s only son buy a family home and car.*
$2,200,000 Highway Car Accident Settlement
A husband and father was involved in an accident when another driver pulled out in front of him on a busy highway. The injured driver suffered foot and ankle injuries requiring multiple ankle surgeries. The case, which was pending in Dallas County, Texas, was settled following mediation before trial. With the settlement, the injured driver was able to buy a family home, and provide for his family the wages lost as a result of the accident.*
$1,525,000 Railroad Conductor Brain Injury Result
A husband and father of three sustained an electric shock injury while working as a railroad freight conductor in an auto distribution lot in Louisiana. While trying to throw a switch in the yard, he was shocked by a 7,000 volt electric fence that surrounded the auto facility. He immediately experienced amnesia for almost an hour and his co-worker engineer observed him acting unusual, shaking and sweating. Over the course of the next several weeks, the railroad conductor experienced debilitating headaches, nausea, and changes in personality. This caused his pregnant wife considerable concern and stress trying to care for her husband and two small children with a third on the way. Eventually, the railroad conductor was admitted to a facility to address his brain injury, being treated in-patient and forced to be away from his family for almost two years.
A lawsuit was filed against his railroad employer, the electric fence company, the parent company of the railroad employer, the auto distribution center, and the on-site security company. Throughout the course of the case, it was found that the fence was not de-energized as required when train crews were working and the switch was too close to the electric fence. A settlement was reached with all of the Defendants. This settlement helped the railroad conductor continue receiving treatment for his brain injury, helped him get back to his love of riding motorcycles and helped support his growing family including helping his wife finish her education.*
$1,515,000 Railroad Bridge Worker Verdict
A railroad bridge worker was injured while renovating a railway bridge in Louisiana when he was struck by a 1,000 pound railroad wooden timber swung by a trackhoe operator. The railroad bridge worker was thrown on to the bridge’s surface where the railroad timber fell on him, crushing his right leg. Due to his injuries, the railroad bridge worker underwent surgery to fix his crushed leg by the insertion of a rod and screws into his tibia and fibula. A lawsuit was filed against his railroad employer and the bridge repair contractor. After a three day trial in federal court in New Orleans, the jury returned an unanimous verdict for the railroad bridge worker.*
$1,500,000 Illegal Left Turn Auto Accident
A home health care nurse was injured in an automobile accident on her way to work, when another vehicle pulled out in front of her after making a left turn across two lanes of travel. After the wreck, the client suffered a traumatic brain injury (“TBI”), neck and disc injuries requiring a cervical fusion surgery. The case was pending in Federal District Court, Western District of Louisiana, before it was settled at mediation shortly before trial.*
$1,225,000 Illegal Turn Auto Accident Settlement
A casino worker mom was injured in an accident when another vehicle made an illegal turn in front of her car causing a collision. The other driver admitted she did not see the injured driver’s vehicle until after the wreck. The investigating officer found that the other driver was driving distracted.
The injured driver had herniated discs at four (4) levels in her neck. At the levels C3-4 and C5-6, the disc herniations were pressing and pinching the spinal nerves. Ultimately, the client had to undergo a three-level cervical fusion surgery of her neck. After her surgery, the client returned to work. The case was settled at mediation. With the settlement, the client was able to pay all of her medical bills, and pay for her daughter’s education.*
Sharon D. was sideswiped by an 18-wheeler traveling at 5 mph in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana. The wreck affected Sharon’s every-day life, and she was no longer able to pick up her grandchildren or participate in social activities. Sharon, who had pre-existing neck and back problems, suffered neck and back spinal injuries in the wreck, resulting in a three-level cervical fusion. Despite the pain from the wreck, Sharon continued to work. Although the insurance company and 18-wheeler company blamed Sharon for the wreck, and refused to take responsibility for her injuries because she had prior neck and back treatment, lead trial attorney Danny Poolson was able to reach a settlement with the insurance company and the 18-wheeler company shortly before trial. The case was pending in 24th Judicial District Court in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana before it settled. With the settlement, Sharon was able to pay for her medical treatment, and now she can pick up her grandchildren again!*
$725,000 Oil Field Accident Settlement
An oil field crew member was hit in the face by a falling object (“birdie”). The defendant oil companies argued against the injured worker claiming they were immune from liability under Louisiana’s “statutory employer” doctrine. The “statutory employer” doctrine says that when a well owner hires a company to work at the well, the company’s employees cannot sue the well owner for what the well owner does wrong. Oil companies bring this up in every case to keep workers out of the courtroom and to make bigger profits off of injured workers. Danny has been able to defeat the “statutory employer” defense, specifically, the “two contract theory.” Under La. R.S. 23:1061, the two-contract theory applies when:
- The principal enters into a contract with a third party;
- Pursuant to that contract, work must be performed; and
- In order for the principal to fulfill its contractual obligation to perform the work, the principal enters into a subcontract for all or part of the work performed.
In the injured crew member’s case, a well owner assigned a “company man” to supervise a wellsite. While operating the site, a pump change was required. The company man hired a subcontractor to perform the pump change. The injured crew member was a floor hand on the subcontractor’s crew. The company man is supposed to hold a safety meeting to outline the proper job procedure and talk about how to keep workers safe. The company man did not hold the safety meeting. The derrick was unsafe, and a 5-pound object (“birdie”) fell 50 feet to the ground striking the injured crew member in the face.
The oil company asserted the “statutory employer” defense and pointed to contracts between the oil company and crew member’s employer. In order for the oil company to successfully assert the “statutory employer” defense, it needs to show that there was a valid contract. A large settlement for the injured worker and his family was obtained before trial.*
$600,000 Elbow/Bicep Injury for Railroad Conductor
Husband and father of three daughters was working as a brakeman performing a railroad switching operation. While working as a brakeman, he pulled the cut lever of the railcar, which controls the knuckle pin and is part of the coupler apparatus. The cut lever came part way up and then jammed suddenly. The railroad brakeman immediately felt a burning pain in his elbow and reported the injury to his conductor. Several railroad supervisors, including the claims adjuster, came to the scene of the accident to inspect the equipment before taking the brakeman to the hospital. The individuals participating in the reenactment attempted to uncouple the railcar and also had trouble with the cut lever and coupler failing, preventing them from uncoupling the railcar. After this “reenactment,” the brakeman was allowed to go to the hospital for his injuries.
A lawsuit was filed against his railroad employer for failing to provide the brakeman a safe place to work and also requiring him to operate malfunctioning and defective rail equipment. Because of the condition of the railroad’s equipment, the brakeman sustained injuries to his left elbow and left bicep. The injuries he sustained required emergency room care and two separate surgeries. A settlement was obtained in the case before trial as well as making sure that the brakeman and his family continued to receive medical insurance for two years after the settlement.*
$300,000 Big Rig Accident Settlement
A driver was sideswiped by an 18-wheeler on Interstate 20. Although there was minimal property damage to the injured driver’s vehicle, the driver suffered neck injuries. Danny and the litigation team were able to obtain a settlement shortly before trial. The case was pending in Federal District Court, Eastern District of Texas.*
$250,000 Full Policy Limits Rear-End Auto Accident Settlement
A driver was injured in a rear-end accident. The driver injured her neck as a result of the wreck. Although the driver had prior injections in her neck before the collision, a full policy limits settlement was obtained for the claim before a lawsuit was filed.*
$102,045.87 Punitive Award for Locomotive Engineer Return to Work Whistleblower Case
A 19-year career locomotive engineer Jonette N. hurt her neck in a train/truck collision, forcing her to be out of work for almost 2 years while she treated for her injuries. This engineer continually treated to get better in order to return to engineering with the railroad. Her treating neurosurgeon noted she was highly motivated to return to work. During the time that she was treating and the recovering from surgery, Jonette N. filed a FELA lawsuit against Amtrak to preserve her rights if she was not able to return to work. Unfortunately, the Federal Court that was presiding over her FELA case dismissed it against the railroad and Jonette N. never received any money for her case from the railroad. Despite not having to pay Jonette N., Amtrak management and the claims department decided that they would punish Jonette N. for protecting her rights and would not allow this seasoned railroader back to work. When the treating neurosurgeon eventually decided she had recovered well enough to return to work, Amtrak refused to allow her to do so.
Jonette N. filed a retaliation claim under the Federal Railroad Safety Act (“FRSA”). A Department of Labor Administrative Law Judge heard the evidence at the trial and decided the case. The Judge explained that the whistleblower law protects railroad workers: if the treating physician says the employee can return to work, the railroad must allow it, unless FRA medical standards or the railroad’s own internal medical standards say otherwise. Here, Amtrak did not rely on FRA medical standards or any internal medical standards of its own to keep Jonette N. from returning to work. It was purely a tactic to not return an employee who had sustained a personal injury and who was trying to return to work. Fortunately, the judge saw through this “disingenuous” defense and ruled in favor of Jonette N. She was able to return to work as a locomotive engineer with her seniority rights, earning a living to provide for her family. Amtrak was required to pay $102,045.87 for its punitive behavior.*
*Results at prior law firm; Member of litigation trial team.