In the United States, and especially in the state of Louisiana, workers who are injured while on the job are legally entitled to worker’s compensation. Sometimes the employer may shirk the responsibility of providing their employees with adequate recompense for an on-the-job injury. This was the case when, in 2006, Thomas Tsohonis suffered an on-site accident while working on a train crane for his employer, BNSF Railway. After a long legal battle, a Billings, MT jury awarded Mr. Tsohonis with a $500,000 award on June 17, 2014.
The 60 year old Mr. Tsohonis allegedly suffered a debilitating personal injury when he slipped and fell while repairing a train crane in the city of Billings, MT. Resulting in severe back pain, the accident condemned him to a premature end to the physically demanding work that had kept him employed with BNSF for over 31 years. According to an economist’s analysis and estimate, Mr. Tsohonis forwent between $489,000 and $716,000 in lost wages between the time of the accident and the expected time of retirement.
BNSF Railway is the second-largest freight railroad firm in the United States, controlling three transcontinental rail routes and a variety of other inter-regional rails spread across 27 U.S. states. The Fort Worth, TX based company employs over 40,000 employees, 6,400 locomotives, and more than 85,000 freight cars. According to Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) data, BNSF reported total equity for the fiscal year of 2011 being $43.8 billion.
According to Jon M. Moyers, Mr. Tsohonis’ attorney, his client had suffered from a hyperextension of the back in October 2006, while working for BNSF as a mechanic. A hyperextension exists when the lordosis, which refers to the natural curve of the lower back, is excessively rounded. This type of injury causes both immediate and long-term pain, which can make the carrying out of everyday activities difficult and uncomfortable. As a result of the back injury, Mr. Tsohonis claims that he was no longer able to continue working for BNSF as a mechanic.
BNSF attorney Anthony Nicastro denied that this particular injury had resulted from an at-work accident and argued that Mr. Tsohonis’ back problems stemmed from an injury sustained at home in December 2007. The company did acknowledge that their employee had suffered an accident in October 2006, but held that it did not lead to the physical health problems that Mr. Tsohonis seeks to make BNSF liable for. In response, Moyers accussed Nicastro of making an “offensive” argument and suggested that the firm had failed to take responsibility.
“It’s [BNSF’s] fault, 100 percent. What is their defense? I really don’t know,” claimed Moyers while giving his closing argument.
The jury apparently agreed with Mr. Tsohinis and with his attorney, Jon Moyers. Believing that BNSF Railway had violated its duty of precaution, the jury awarded the plaintiff a $500,000 award for the injuries sustained and the wages lost as a result of incapacitation.
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