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A Philadelphia Common Pleas Court jury has awarded $1.5 million to a train engineer who said he suffered severe injuries after tripping and falling over a piece of train yard equipment. The train engineer, James Gautieri of Philadelphia, sought damages from CSX Transportation Inc. under the Federal Employers Liability Act for back, neck and spinal injuries, including spinal disc herniations. Gautieri argued that CSX failed to provide him with a safe, well-lit and orderly work area, according to court papers. CSX argued that Gautieri failed to follow safety rules, including always watching his step. The jury found CSX was 95 percent negligent and found Gautieri was 5 percent negligent. Judge Eugene Maier presided over the Gautieri v. CSX Transportation Inc. trial, which started Friday, Aug. 10, and ended the next Friday. Gautieri claimed lost past wages of $150,000 and future lost wages of $1,028,708. The plaintiff demanded $1.5 million, while CSX offered $25,000 to settle the case, court papers stated. “He’s permanently disabled and restricted to sedentary duties,” said Gautieri’s attorney, Robert S. Goggin III of Keller & Goggin. On the night of Sept. 26, 2005, Gautieri and his co-workers had returned to the Woodburne Yard in Langhorne with 10 railroad cars, the defense pretrial memorandum said. Around 11:30 p.m., Gautieri went to check the fuel levels on a locomotive, according to the plaintiff’s pretrial memorandum. Gautieri lifted his flashlight to check the fuel gauge, which was 20 feet away, the defense memorandum said. Then Gautieri’s feet became entangled in a metal band located about 20 feet from the locomotive Gautieri was going to check, the plaintiff’s memorandum said. Gautieri said he then tripped over a freight car knuckle – used to hold two trains together – hidden by weeds. He lost his footing and fell to the ground on a section of discarded railroad track, Goggin said. He was found by a co-worker and transported by ambulance to an area hospital. Gautieri suffered severe injuries to his neck, back and wrists, the plaintiff’s memorandum said. He was no longer able to work as a train engineer, and he was left with permanent pain and a restriction to sedentary work. CSX argued that Gautieri violated a CSX safety rule requiring him to always look where he was walking and to avoid putting his feet in a location that could cause him to trip. “Had the plaintiff been paying attention to where he was walking (rather than looking at the fuel gauge) and illuminating his path, as required by Rule 2006, this accident would have never occurred,” CSX argued in its pretrial memorandum. CSX also argued Gautieri originally was restricted to light duty for one week after his fall and questioned his claim to being totally disabled. CSX also said Gautieri’s injuries were pre-existing, referring to settlements from Gautieri’s prior employer Conrail in 1990, 1991 and 1993 in relation to back injuries and a 2001 motor vehicle accident for which Gautieri was treated for back pain and spinal disc abnormalities. “Unfortunately, for the defense, in the five-year interim he had worked in excess of 70 hours every week with no vacation. They didn’t buy that causation defense,” Goggin said. The verdict is not reduced by a high-low agreement, Goggin said. The jurors were not polled. James Duckworth, also of Keller & Goggin, joined Goggin in trying the case. Michael Flynn, an attorney for CSX Transportation during the trial, did not respond to a request for comment.

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