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Meyer v. Penn Central Transportation Co.

OPINION FILED OCTOBER 19, 1979.

GERALD MEYER, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

PENN CENTRAL TRANSPORTATION COMPANY, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. CHARLES DURHAM, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE LORENZ DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, Gerald Meyer, brought this action pursuant to the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA) (45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. (1970)) against his employer, Penn Central. Following a jury trial, Meyer was awarded $125,000 in damages. The trial court granted Meyer's motion for a new trial on the issue of damages. On appeal, defendant contends the trial court erred in granting plaintiff's motion for a new trial.

Plaintiff, a railroad brakeman, was injured during the coupling of a caboose to a train. At the time of the coupling, plaintiff was inside the caboose and was knocked about the caboose by the impact. The question of defendant's liability is not raised on appeal. The following evidence pertinent to the issue of damages was adduced at trial.

For the plaintiff

William C. Norton

On May 11, 1973, he was the conductor of the train crew in which plaintiff was working. Before the coupling, he and Meyer were inside the caboose. When he noticed the train approaching, he told Meyer, "Hold on, we're going to get hit." He jumped off the caboose before the impact, but Meyer remained. The train was moving at approximately 15-20 miles per hour at impact. After the impact, he went inside the caboose and noticed the locker doors and windows had popped open. Meyer was lying on the floor and could not get up without help. Meyer said his legs were hurt. He fixed a bed for Meyer to rest on during the trip to their destination in Kankakee.

On cross-examination, he admitted that neither the train nor the caboose derailed after impact. He did not request a different caboose from the railroad for the trip to Kankakee.

Gerald Meyer, in his own behalf

He was thrown violently around the inside of the caboose at the moment of the coupling. Inside the caboose, seat cushions came loose and windows and locker doors came open. After the impact, he felt a sharp pain in his back. Upon arriving in Kankakee, he was taken to Riverside Hospital where he remained for 21 days. While in the hospital, he received therapy and medication for the pain and was placed in traction. He continued to experience pain in his back, left leg, and head at the time of his discharge. For the next two months, he received physical therapy as an out-patient. In November 1973, he was hospitalized because of his continuing pain. He had complete bed rest, received medication for the pain and underwent therapy. He returned to the hospital for a third time in May 1974, and for 21 days received medical treatment similar to the previous two occasions. In March 1975, he was hospitalized for a fourth time. He received medication and was given cortisone injections in the lower back. At the end of this hospital stay, he felt no improvement. At the time of trial, his condition remained the same as it was in August 1975. No doctor had ever recommended surgery to him.

From January 1, 1973, to May 11, 1973, the day of the accident, he earned approximately $6,300. Since the accident, he has been physically unable to return to work. He cannot lift more than five pounds, walk or sit for any length of time, or stoop.

On cross-examination, he admitted that after the impact neither the caboose nor the train derailed. Since the accident, he has driven his car occasionally and has worked as a weigh scale operator.

Dr. Anthony L. Brown

As a practicing orthopedic surgeon, he examined the plaintiff on April 15, 1976. At that time, Meyer was in no acute distress and had a full range of motion in his shoulders. He did not find any abnormalities in the muscle groups of Meyer's legs. There was a moderate restriction of motion in the cervical area and the lumbar spine. He noted a slight spasm or muscle tightness in the lumbar spine. He concluded that Meyer had a chronic cervical and low back derangement. Chronic means a longstanding condition which is not in a state of ...


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