Jury Awards $800,000 to Worker

Junction City, Kansas


The Daily Union

A jury in Wichita awarded a Junction City resident more than $800,000 on Monday for injuries caused while working for Union Pacific Railroad.

Barry Chaffin, 48, said he suffered frostbite and a foot injury on Jan. 31, 1999, while working outside in Amarillo, Texas, in freezing weather.

Chaffin was represented by Nelson G. Wolff of the law firm of Schlichter Bogard & Denton in St. Louis.

Wolff said Chaffin was pleased with the jury's award and thought it had granted him justice.

"The railroad company had offered $50,000 before the trial," Wolff said. "Now the total amount of damages determined by the jury had been $1.3 million."

Union Pacific Railroad had not returned phone calls today by deadline.

Wolff said the damages were reduced by 37 percent to compensate for the partial fault Chaffin played in helping to cause his injuries.

According to court documents, Chaffin said Union Pacific failed to provide a safe place for him to work and failed to inspect the work place for unsafe conditions. He said snow and ice accumulated and Union Pacific did not remove the snow where he was expected to work.

"Now, what they were requiring him to do was to clean ice and snow from switches," Wolff said. Switches are a device that are used to line tracks in one direction or the other.

"They gave him a broom with a two-inch pick at the end. It is a tool that has been used for 50 years," Wolff said.

According to Wolff, Union Pacific could have given Chaffin more modern tools that could have done the job faster.

"Because they required our guy to be out there with this old tool he was exposed to the elements for between four to eight hours," Wolff said. "They tried to blame their loyal employee for his injury when he was only doing what he was told to do for the benefit of the railroad."