Type of action: Railroad negligence
Name of case: Riddick v. Norfolk Southern Railway Co.
Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division
Case no.: 2:21-CV-00297
Tried before: Jury
Name of judge or mediator: Judge Roderick C. Young
Date resolved: 5/12/2022
Verdict or settlement: Verdict
Attorneys for plaintiff (and city): John M. Cooper and Bill O’Mara, Norfolk; Bailey L. Gifford, Virginia Beach
Description of case: On May 30, 2019, the plaintiff, Raymond Riddick, was working as a truck driver for UPS delivering and receiving wheel sets (the steel wheels on which railcars roll) from Norfolk Southern. Each wheel set weighs approximately 3,500 pounds. This process involves a Norfolk Southern employee using a forklift outfitted with a special device called a cradle to move the wheel sets on and off the tractor trailer. When placing the wheel sets onto the trailer the Norfolk Southern employee operating the forklift must ensure that the flanges are in the flange ways. While this is occurring the UPS employee is responsible for securing the wheel sets onto the trailer. The UPS employee only has approximately 1.5 feet on the edge of the trailer to work. It was uncontested that the Norfolk Southern employee must receive a signal from the UPS employee before releasing the wheel set onto the trailer.
On the date of injury, the plaintiff arrived at the Norfolk Southern 38th Street Car Shop in Norfolk right at shift change. Two Norfolk Southern employees, a carman and a stockman, were assigned to stay after their shifts ended and assist Riddick. No proper job safety briefing was conducted prior to the loading of the wheel sets, as required by Norfolk Southern regulations. The two Norfolk Southern employees decided to use two forklifts to speed up the process, which is permitted but not frequently done. A Norfolk Southern employee released a wheel set without getting the signal from the plaintiff. The plaintiff fell off the trailer in an attempt to get out of the way of the 3,500-pound wheel set rolling his way.
Contributory negligence was an issue, as it was disputed whether the Norfolk Southern employee missed the flange way or there was a chain improperly in the flange way that caused the wheel to become dislodged and roll off the side of the trailer. Questions from the jury indicated that contributory negligence was a concern.
The Norfolk Southern employees left the premises without reporting the incident. When Riddick reported the incident to the railroad supervisors, he indicated that he had sustained an injury to his right elbow. Norfolk Southern classified this incident as a “close call.” Riddick finished the job and drove the wheel sets to South Carolina before seeking medical attention. He ultimately had surgery on his right elbow and arm to repair nerve damage caused by the fall. The hand surgeon said that the result was better than expected. The plaintiff’s past medical bills totaled approximately $88,000. The lost wage claim in this case was a source of contention given the plaintiff’s limited work history.
After approximately six hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict against Norfolk Southern in the amount of $303,920.24.
Bailey L. Gifford, counsel for the plaintiff, provided case information. [022-T-083]