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Case Type: Personal injury Case: French v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co., No. 48914 (Cir. Ct., Prince William Co., Va.) Plaintiff’s Attorneys: Francis P. Hajek of Virginia Beach, Va.’s Wilson, Hajek & Shapiro; and Stephen M. Smith of Hampton, Va.’s Joseph Smith Ltd. Defense Attorney: Aubrey R. Bowles III of Richmond, Va.’s Bowles and Bowles Verdict: Reversal Virginia circuit court Judge William D. Hamblen has thrown out a $45.94 million jury verdict awarded against Norfolk Southern Railway Co. to a man injured when a Norfolk Southern train derailed. Judge Hamblen ordered a retrial on damages, finding that the conduct of the plaintiff’s counsel was “designed to, or in any event had the effect of, inflaming the jury against the defendant,” and “constituted an invitation to the jury to punish the defendant.” The plaintiff Donald French was injured on May 2, 1997, while sitting in his office at a Gainesville, Va., gas station. A Norfolk Southern train derailed and a railroad car fully loaded with pick-up trucks turned over and skidded into his building. Mr. French sustained a fractured left leg and a closed-head injury. The plaintiff contended that the mild traumatic brain injury had left him unable to return to normal life or work. Norfolk Southern admitted liability but contested the extent of Mr. French’s disability. On Oct. 12, 2000, a Manassas, Va., jury awarded Mr. French $45.94 million. On the jury’s decision that he was due prejudgment interest from the date of the accident, the amount was scheduled to rise to more than $60 million. Norfolk Southern filed post-trial motions to set aside the judgment as excessive and contrary to law, said defense counsel Aubrey R. Bowles III of Richmond, Va.’s Bowles and Bowles. Judge Hamblen agreed with the railroad, calling the verdict “unfair” and “excessive,” and describing it as having “no reasonable relationship to the damages proved.” No trial date has been set, said Mr. Bowles.

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