Pair of Lawsuits Helps Show Why Lawyers Like City

St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"Shopping for Justice"

One railroad worker was injured in Illinois, the other in Arkansas. Their awards totaling $6.45 million came from juries in St. Louis Circuit Court.

Larry Allen and Tommy Calloway, both 47, say St. Louis jurors have been fair to them. In the past year, jurors awarded a total of $6.45 million to the two men, who were hurt while working for railroads.

Allen, a former engineer, received $4.75 million last October for the injuries he received when two locomotives collided near Chicago in 1993. Calloway, a conductor, got $1.7 million last month for a back injury in Arkansas in 1992.

A common denominator for both was their lawyer, Jerome J. Schlichter, who specializes in cases brought by injured railroad workers from all over the country.

Both awards were higher than average for the St. Louis area. Verdict Reporter Inc., which tracks jury awards and settlements, says juries found for the plaintiffs in eight of 14 railroad accident cases tried here last year. The awards averaged $1,110,875 per case.

Allen's case was not average. He still has nightmares and visits a psychiatrist about the night another train rammed head-on the 92-car Southern Pacific train he was operating.

The conductor, Camille Cappuis, 29, was in the locomotive cab with Allen and was killed on impact. Both men lived in Quincy, Ill.

Pinned with the body of his coworker by hundreds of tons of steel and lying in a pool of spilled diesel fuel in 15-degree weather, Allen screamed for three hours while firefighters struggled to free him.

"The guy who represented [the railroad] looked like he just walked off the country club course. He was way too slick and way too tan," said MATTHEW MOUSHEY, member of jury that awarded $1.7 million to injured rail worker, "How I survived, I'm not sure," Allen said in an interview last week. His pelvis was broken in several places. A knee injury required surgery. Later, doctors cut a disc out of his back and amputated the frostbitten little toe of his left foot. While Allen recuperated, dozens of lawyers called him, offering to represent him.

Schlichter was not among them. Allen sought out the St. Louis-based lawyer because the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers had recommended him.

In the trial in St. Louis, Schlichter brought in evidence that showed Allen would have been better protected by cab safety designs that had been recommended by a committee that included one of the railroad's executives. The jury agreed with the argument.

Schlichter said the case was brought in St. Louis because Allen reported for work in West Quincy, Mo., and because the Southern Pacific is a corporation registered in Missouri.

With modern transportation, Schlichter said, St. Louis is a convenient place for such trials. He noted that railroads frequently hold meetings in St. Louis, requiring their workers to attend from all over the country.

"If this is not convenient to the railroad, it's hard to imagine what could be more convenient," he said.