December 21, 2014

Supreme Court orders new trial on damages in railroad injury case

The Iowa Supreme Court has ordered a jury award given to a man injured while working for the Burlington-Northern-Santa Fe railroad to be refigured. John Giza was 59 when he suffered a knee injury in the rail yard in Red Oak in 2009 that made him unable to continue working. He sued for damages.

Giza was eligible to retire with full benefits at age 60, but claimed he planned to retire at age 66. He was earning $100,000 a year. The railroad asked to present evidence that showed 60-percent of employees like Giza — who work 30 years — retire at age 60. The district court did not allow that evidence and the jury awarded Giza $1.25 million.

BNSF appealed and the Supreme Court ruled when an employee makes a claim based on a hypothetical retirement age,  federal law does not preclude the railroad from introducing its stats on average retirement age. They reversed the earlier award and ordered a new trial to refigure the damages.

See the complete ruling here: Giza ruling PDF