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On Jan. 12, 1999, Anthony Scarpello, 54, a conductor for Consolidated Rail Corp., was attempting to back up a train, including a locomotive, two tank cars and a box car, onto an empty track. Assisting him was engineer Ronald Materowski and brakeman Van Ransdell. Scarpello shouted a command to Ransdell, but Ransdell didn’t hear him or ask him to repeat the order. Scarpello then radioed Materowski that he intended to put the cars onto the center track and radioed the command to Ransdell. Scarpello dismounted and began walking away, expecting Ransdell to switch the cars to the center track. But instead of routing the train to the center track, Ransdell backed it up onto the track where Scarpello was walking. Just before impact, Scarpello, hearing Ransdell shout out a warning, turned to his right but the left front pocket of his coat got snared on a protrusion from the train. The train dragged him along, tore off his left arm and then propelled him under the wheels, cutting him in half and killing him. Scarpello was conscious for about seven seconds while being dragged, and then for another several seconds after being pulled under the train. His family sued Consolidated Rail, charging negligence on the part of the brakeman for failing to switch the train to the center track and the engineer for failing to determine the danger of moving the train onto the wrong track. The plaintiffs filed under the Federal Employees Liability Act, which governs railroad workers and holds employers responsible for the negligence of their employees. The plaintiffs contended that Ransdell erred because he had been working too many hours with insufficient rest periods. Conrail countered that Scarpello caused the accident and that he was killed or lost consciousness on impact. On March 7, a Jersey City, N.J., jury found Conrail 98 percent responsible and Scarpello 2 percent responsible, awarding his estate $53.5 million, reduced to $52.43 million. Included was $50 million for pain and suffering, or $2.5 million for each of the 20 seconds plaintiff’s lawyers said Scarpello was conscious. Plaintiffs’ attorneys: Gerald H. Baker, Baker, Garber, Duffy & Pedersen, Hoboken, N.J. Defense attorneys: Thomas Hart and Adele Baker, Ruprecht, Hart & Weeks, Millburn, N.J.

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