4 Railroad Workers Win Landmark Ruling (June 20, 2009)
By Ed Stannard, New Haven Register Metro Editor
Four railroad workers who were injured on the job but claimed retaliation by Metro-North have been awarded $75,000 each in punitive damages, the first awards under a 2008 federal law protecting rail employees.
The Great Train Seizure - Three Articles:
The Great Train Heist
Janet Seiberg, The Connecticut Law Tribune "Behind the Bar," January 18, 1993
Locomotive Seized in Settlement
Thomas R. Violante, The Connecticut Post, January 13, 1993
Scott Brede, The Connecticut Law Tribune
Snowmen of Grand Central Terminal Case
Landmark asbestos lawsuit against Metro-North Railroad
The Most Important Case Ever to Arise Under the Federal Railroad Safety Act: B & M v. Lenfest, et al
Rail labor strikes over safety and railroad's retaliation strikes out
Largest Wrongful Death Verdict in Connecticut History
The largest railroad wrongful death verdict in the history of Connecticut: just under $11 million dollars for the death of a Metro-North flagman
63-Year-Old Foreman with Double Leg Amputation
Cahill & Perry, P.C. forced Metro-North Railroad to pay the largest amount of money in its history for a FELA case: $7 million in cash
$5.5 Million Settlement for Metro-North Railroad Worker
Connecticut Post, Thursday, March 11, 2004
$3.2M Award For Widow, Other Lawyers Turned Away
Thomas B. Scheffey, The Connecticut Law Tribune
Lineman Burned After Being Electrocuted While Working on Track
A jury in federal court in Bridgeport awarded Metro-North apprentice lineman Terrance Curly $2 million, the largest verdict ever obtained in any federal court against Metro-North Commuter Railroad
Workin' on the Railroad: Three-Man New Haven Boutique Has Never Lost a Case
Caroline V. Clarke, The Connecticut Law Tribune
New Jersey Transit Rail Worker Wins Largest-Ever Damages Awarded by OSHA under Federal Rail Safety Act
Cahill & Perry, leading railroad injury law firm, secures $570,000 award from OSHA's Whistleblower Office for client who suffered from NJ Transit's violation of FRSA
New York, NY ( Martindale-Hubbell® Newswire / PRWEB) April 8, 2010 -- The largest award ever granted under the Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA) has just been handed down to a New Jersey Transit Rail worker who was retaliated against by NJ Transit (Case # 2-2140-08-013).
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Whistleblower Office found NJ Transit violated the FRSA by disciplining Anthony Araujo in retaliation for his reporting an injury suffered in a 2008 accident that occurred in Newark, N.J. OSHA has ordered the payment of $570,000 in damages to make him whole.
"This award is historic not only because of its size, but because of the diversity of its 'make whole' damages, including punitive damages and compensatory damages for ruining Mr. Araujo's credit," said Araujo's attorney and a partner at Cahill & Perry, P.C. "This award confirms that the FRSA hands to every rail worker the sword and shield necessary to wage a crusade to transform the retaliatory culture of rail management. In the past, railroads were free to discipline employees without having to worry about paying economic damages beyond limited back pay. Those days are now over. This award makes clear railroads will pay full damages for all of the economic losses their retaliatory discipline inflicts on workers, including the value of homes and cars lost as a result of employees being forced out of work. The message of OSHA's ruling to railroads is loud and clear: your world has changed and your managers ignore the FRSA at your own peril."
Cahill & Perry has been an advocate for railroad workers and their families for more than 30 years, offering high-quality personalized legal assistance for injury victims.
"I am very grateful for an award that tries to make me whole for all the losses I have suffered due to NJ Transit's retaliatory actions," said Araujo, a New Jersey Transit Rail conductor. "My hope is that this award will wake rail managers up and put a stop to the culture of retaliation against workers who report safety concerns or injuries."
Cahill & Perry, P.C. has represented many important railroad injury cases and has received millions of dollars of awards for their clients. The firm's attorneys are skilled and experienced in all aspects of railroad injury law and have obtained precedent-setting awards for clients throughout the Northeastern United States. For more information, please go to www.trainlaw.com or call toll-free 800-576-0515.
The Great Train Heist
Article by Janet Seiberg for Behind the Bar, a column appearing in the January 18, 1993 issue of The Connecticut Law Tribune.
Even the thieves in "The Great Train Robbery" never pulled off a railroad heist as skillfully as New Haven's Cahill & DiPersia.
The firm's three partners struck twice this month, first seizing Metro-North commuter train and then hitting an Amtrak locomotive. Unlike their fictional counterparts, however, these modern-day robbers were acting under court orders.
The pair began their raid at 3:20 p.m. at Metro-North's claims office in New Haven's Union Station. After several minutes of occasionally loud argument, the sheriff, and partner, George Cahill, took off to find a train. A Metro-North police officer and claims officer Jack McGovern, who had a look of incredulity plastered on his face, followed.
The sheriff appeared determined to find a working train, saying he wanted something he could auction off for a lot of money. The group began examining trains in the yard, but maintenance workers told them those cars were broken. The sheriff then decided to take the only train in the station, #1575, which was scheduled to leave in four minutes for New York.
When a claims officer tried to object, the police officer jumped in. He got on the radio and informed trainmaster Joe Kanell that a sheriff had seized the train. "They can't do that," Kanell could be heard responding. The cop said the sheriff could--and was.
The Sheriff began hanging signs on the train saying it was against the law for anyone to touch or move the seized property. The Metro-North police officer began ringing the train in yellow "police crime scene" tape, and train officials ordered all the passengers off the train and boarded a new train that had just arrived in the station from New York.
The great train seizure might have ended then if claims agent Gene Romanik had not appeared. He immediately confronted the sheriff and said the train was going to leave the station. If the sheriff wanted to arrest him, then so be it.
Nevas ruled that the writ was perfectly legal. He also blasted the railroad, saying their poor handling of these types of cases cost the taxpayers of New York and Connecticut millions of dollars.
"The railroad's position is consistently unreasonable," Nevas said in court. Their evaluations of the cases are very, very low. Their expectation as to what they think these cases are worth are unrealistic, and this is a perfect example." Nevas, however, did ask to wait until 3:00 p.m. to seize the cars to give Metro-North time to pay. It ended up delivering a check to the sheriff that afternoon.
At that point, it appeared that Cahill, & DiPersia's train-grabbing days were over. But that was not to be the case. The very next day, Cahill seized an Amtrak locomotive. He acted after a client, a former Amtrak ticket agent who was brutally attacked in the Hartford station's parking lot, became frustrated with the railroad's failure to pay a $1.75 million judgment. Cahill says that if Amtrak fails to pay soon, he will seize a second engine and auction them both off.
Locomotive Seized in Settlement
Article written by Thomas R. Violante for the January 13, 1993 edition of The Connecticut Post
NEW HAVEN -- A former Amtrak employee who won a suit against the government-funded rail agency took the unusual step of having a deputy sheriff seize a locomotive parked on a spur in the Union Station rail yard Tuesday.
Engine 902, an electric locomotive built by General Electric and worth about $2 million, was seized in the yard near Hallock Street. Yellow tape stretched around the engine and utility poles, warning passers-by to stay clear. The deputy sheriff, who executed the seizure, taped to several windows large notices stating that the engine had been seized in settlement of a $1.8 million judgment for the former employee. "We went there [Amtrak] and made a demand on them, and they didn't pay. And we decided to go and seize the train," the sheriff said.
Delores Schneider of Springfield, Mass., was the plaintiff in the lawsuit. She accused the company of not providing proper security while she was working as a ticket agent during the 3 p.m. to midnight shift in Hartford's Union Station on Superbowl Sunday in January 1986. While leaving the station she was assaulted and beaten and was about to be raped when she broke free.
During a trial in January 1992, she won a judgment against Amtrak for $1.8 million, her attorney Charles said. Amtrak filed a motion for a new trial, which was denied. Its appeal in the 2nd Circuit Court is pending, but Amtrak failed to post a bond to stay the judgment. Schneider and her attorney felt that waiting seven years for her settlement was long enough and asked U.S. District Judge Ellen Bree Burns to hear the case Monday. Burns granted the seizure of the locomotive and upheld her decision Tuesday night. "It was time that Delores was paid for what she suffered at the hands of Amtrak," said . Howard Robertson, an Amtrak public affairs spokesman in Washington, D.C., would only confirm that the seizure had taken place.
Article by Scott Brede, The Connecticut Law Tribune
George J. Cahill, Jr. of New Haven's Cahill, & DiPersia is the first to admit that Metro-North Commuter Railroad claims agents don't exactly relish his visits.
After all, their face-to-face dealings with his firm tend to carry a certain message: Pay up and pay up now. And watching a sheriff seize a commuter train on the spot -- yes, it's been done before -- is hardly Metro-North's idea of an enjoyable afternoon. Still their latest encounter left even Cahill a bit shocked, he says.
"I don't know what they thought they could accomplish by locking their doors and hiding inside," says Cahill.
Along with partner and a trusty deputy sheriff, Cahill went Nov. 13 to Metro-North's claims office at New Haven's rail station. The purpose of the visit was to collect a $59,000 jury verdict awarded in July to James Sorrentino, an injured Metro-North engineer the firm represented.
Claims officials apparently spotted Cahill and deputy sheriff Ronald Mangano as they crossed the street to the train station, Cahill says. When the trio reached the claims office, the door was locked. Other Metro-North employees told them the claims agents were in the office, but nobody responded to their knocking.
The standoff ended nearly three hours later when Metro-North officials finally agreed to let Mangano serve them a writ of execution.
Cahill says he knew the claims agents couldn't hold out forever. The nearest bathroom is down the hall from their office, and "eventually nature would have to call," he says.
Still, he's not quite sure what led them to unlock the door, and Metro-North defense counsel John A. Blazi, a Waterbury solo, declines to comment on the matter.
During a 1993 payment dispute, and another deputy sheriff commandeered a Metro-North train just before it prepared to leave for New York. Not so on Nov. 13. Cahill says he left the station that evening with only a promise to receive a check the next day for the full amount of the award plus a sheriff's fee of nearly $6,000.
The check came a day late -- and only after Cahill threatened to have Mangano seize about a half-dozen motor vehicles used by Metro-North supervisors, he says.
His strong arm tactics, Cahill adds, became necessary after months of nagging Metro-North to fork over the amount due Sorrentino.
Following the verdict, the company unsuccessfully sought to deduct from the judgment the portion of Sorrentino's medical expenses that it incurred, he says.
Metro-North later sent Cahill about $14,000 subtracting the sick pay Sorrentino collected while recuperating from his injury, Cahill says. A judge denied that "novel" attempt to reduce payment, he adds.
By October, "it was apparent they were not going to pay the full judgment." That, Cahill says, is when he gave Metro-North an ultimatum: Pay up by Nov. 13 or prepare for a sheriff's visit. The company chose the latter.
Snowmen of Grand Central Terminal Case
Cahill & Perry partner brought this landmark lawsuit against Metro-North Railroad in 1989 and pursued it all the way to oral argument before the United States Supreme Court in 1997.
In the mid-1980s Metro-North Railroad ordered its workers to rip up old pipe insulation in the steam tunnels under Grand Central Terminal, and those workers became known as the 'Snowmen of Grand Central Terminal' because when they emerged from the tunnels the were completely covered with white insulation dust. In September 1989 the New York Attorney General and MTA Inspector General's offices issued a joint report confirming that the pipe insulation was asbestos and that Metro-North knew it was asbestos but did not provide the Snowmen with any protective equipment. It became evident that Metro-North had ordered its own unqualified workers to remove the asbestos pipe insulation in order save the hundreds of thousands of dollars it would cost to hire certified asbestos handlers.
Understandably, the Snowmen were enraged about being exposed to massive amounts of airborne asbestos fibers and worried about their future. Most were young men who now had to wait between 15 and 40 years for signs of asbestos disease to show up in their lungs. However, everyone told them they had no right to sue because the law required them to have an actual clinical diagnosis of asbestos disease (e.g., asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma) before they could hold Metro-North accountable. But in 15 to 40 years, documents would be gone, witnesses would be dead, the Railroad itself could be gone. So how could they bring a meaningful civil action then? It would be one thing if criminal charges were pressed against those responsible, but for political reasons that are still not clear, the Manhattan District Attorney did not bring criminal charges against the Metro-North managers who knowingly exposed their workers to a known carcinogen for several years.
The Snowman came to Cahill & Perry partner and asked if there was anything the firm could do to force the legal system to give them some remedy for the wrong they had suffered, the consequences of which they would live with for the rest of their lives. knew what they had been told by everyone else: Not every wrong in life has a legal remedy, and as it stood the law would not allow them any recovery until they were sick or dying in the distant future. But what had happened to them was so egregious and so outrageous, the firm felt they had no choice but to do whatever possible to force the courts to expand the boundaries of FELA tort law so that employers such as Metro-North would be held accountable for such conduct.
After all, the Federal Employers Liability Act was passed in 1908 by President Teddy Roosevelt with a two-fold purpose: "The purpose and policy of Federal Employers' Liability Act legislation is to promote adequate recovery for negligently injured railroad workers and thereby promote safe operating conditions" on railroads. Kozar v. Cheaspeake and Ohio Ry. Co., 320 F. Supp. 335, 387 (WD Mich. 1970). Railroads are the ultimate economic animal, and the genius of FELA is that it converts railroads' economic self-interest into a positive force for workplace safety by giving railroads an economic incentive to provide their employees with safe work places. But here, the Metro-North Railroad had actually saved a significant amount of money by exposing the Snowmen to a known carcinogen, and was not being held accountable at all. This was a perversion of the purpose and policy underlying FELA, and Cahill, & Marurer felt it had no choice but to do whatever was possible to provide some measure of justice for the Snowmen.
In October 1989 drafted the novel Complaint for the Snowmen and filed it in the federal district court in Manhattan. The Complaint admitted the Snowmen were not yet clinically ill, but asserted they should be entitled to the costs of yearly medical monitoring (so they could catch the earliest signs of cancer and hopefully treat it) and something for the mental anguish of having to live with time bombs ticking in their chests, time bombs that may never go off, but which they have to live with every day for the rest of their lives.
proceeded to battle the Railroad for the seven years it took to go through discovery (voluminous document production and depositions), the jury trial before Judge Whitman Knapp, and the appeal to the Second Circuit. After hearing the plaintiff's evidence, Judge Knapp dismissed the case on purely legal grounds, confirming the state of the law that unless and until the Snowmen become clinically ill, they could not recover anything.
The United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, however, issued a ground- breaking decision that expanded the boundaries of tort law to allow for the Snowmen to recover damages now for medical monitoring and mental anguish. And in the future, if and when they became clinically ill, the Snowmen would have a whole new cause of action for that diagnosed disease. Buckley v. Metro-North Com R.R., 79 F.3d 1337(2nd Cir. 1996).
However, that was not to be the end of this novel case. In November 1996 the United States Supreme Court granted a Writ of Certiorari and scheduled the case for oral argument in February of 1997. filed the brief and then argued the appeal on February 18, 1997. On June 23, 1997 the Supreme Court issued its ruling in the Snowmen of Grand Central Terminal case.
The Snowmen case raised two novel questions the Supreme Court had never ruled on before: whether railroad workers who are exposed to a toxic substance but do not yet have any symptoms of toxic disease are entitled to recover (a) for emotional distress and (b) for medical monitoring.
The Supreme Court held that such a worker cannot recover for emotional distress "unless and until he manifests symptoms of a disease" and cannot recover the costs of medical monitoring in a lump sum. The Court left open the door for possible recovery of medical monitoring costs in some form other than a lump sum, as for example a court-monitored fund. Metro-North Commuter Railroad Co. v. Buckley, 521 U.S. 424 (1997).
The important points of this landmark decision are:
- The Court declared for the first time that a toxically exposed worker who develops "a symptom" of a toxic disease "can recover related reasonable medical monitoring costs." This ruling will strengthen railroad workers claims for toxic disease when they develop a symptom of such disease;
- As a result of our firm bringing this case, employees' future legal rights to sue Metro-North will be protected if and when they exhibit a symptom of asbestos-related diseased in the future, because:
- Metro-North has legally admitted it negligently exposed its employees to a known carcinogen, simplifying their ability to hold Metro-North liable for any future disease they develop;
- We have collected and preserved an invaluable trove of documents and testimony that will confirm the nature and extent of employees exposure to asbestos at the hands of Metro-North.
Thus, by bringing this case, Cahill & Perry, P.C. succeeded in protecting railroad workers' future legal rights for toxic exposure and cleared the way for holding Metro-North accountable for any symptoms of asbestos disease the Snowmen of GCT develop in the future.
And in fact, six years later, the United States Supreme Court used the Snowmen's case as the basis for affirming an award of damages to railroad workers who exhibit symptoms of asbestos disease. Ayers was a FELA case where the workers had been awarded damages for fear of developing asbestos cancer in the future, and the Supreme Court upheld the jury verdict in favor of the workers by expressly following the path marked in Buckley.
We established the right of unions to strike when its members are working under hazardous conditions and successfully defended union officers against the Railroad's claim for monetary damages and successfully fought for their reinstatement with full back pay.
On November 4, 1985 the union representing the conductors on the former Boston and Maine Railroad conducted a system-wide refusal to work under hazardous conditions. The same day the B&M Railroad obtained a temporary restraining order from the United States District Court in Boston ordering all employees back to work. The B&M fired the General Chairman and his Local Chairmen and at the same time filed a Civil Complaint seeking millions of dollars in damages from the General Chairman and his Local Chairmen, both individually and in their capacity as union officers.
Although the trial judge sided with the railroad, we convinced the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit in Boston to reinstate all the union representatives and to dissolve the liens the Railroad had placed on their homes for allegedly conducting an illegal strike. In a landmark Federal Railroad Safety Act opinion, B&M vs. Lenfest, et al.,799 F.2d 795 (1st Cir. 1986), the First Circuit Court of Appeals held that this was not an illegal strike but was a protected refusal to work under hazardous conditions pursuant to Section 10 of the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The Railroad immediately reinstated all the dismissed employees with seniority unimpaired. The dispute concerning back wages thereupon was referred to a Public Law Board.
The dismissed Local Chairmen were represented by former B&M General Chairman Roger Lenfest through several sessions, voluminous submissions, and oral arguments. Due to the perseverance of General Chairman Lenfest, the Public Law Board awarded back wages on February 27, 1990. The back wages were calculated to be approximately $400,000.00. Still, the Railroad balked at paying the damages.
After filing a lawsuit in July of 1991, to enforce the Public Law Board Awards, Cahill, & DiPersia engineered a full and final settlement with the Railroad's Law Department which required it to pay all the lost wages to the Local Chairmen in weekly payments by December, 1991. All the former B&M Local Chairmen now have received all of the back time to which they were entitled. In addition, the Railroad's action for civil damages against the Local Chairmen was dismissed.
The courage of these union officials and the perseverance of their General Chairman resulted in the first lawful refusal to work under the Federal Railroad Safety Act. We congratulate them on the successful conclusion of their six-year battle against unsafe working conditions.
Largest Wrongful Death Verdict in Connecticut History
Cahill & Perry, P.C. recently won the largest wrongful death verdict in the history of Connecticut: just under $11 million dollars for the death of a Metro-North flagman.
Metro-North conductor flagman James Avery was killed at 1:30 am on July 18, 1997, while flagging for the employees of contractor Mass Electric west of Stamford Station. Cahill & Perry, P.C. sued both Metro-North and Mass Electric, claiming their negligence and recklessness caused Avery's death.
Avery was struck by a Metro-North work train moving west on Track 2 after the Mass Electric workers engaged in a confrontation and skirmish with him over his orders that they stop pressing their bucket truck against the catenary wires. Despite their inability to call Jim Avery as a witness, George Cahill and Scott Perry nevertheless succeeded in proving at trial that Avery was struck by the locomotive while he was down on Track 2 as a result of Mass Electric's recklessly negligent physical altercation with him.
The verdict is a complete vindication of Jim Avery, because the jury totally rejected Mass Electric's argument that Jim was daydreaming while standing up on a live mainline track. The jury awarded a total of over $10.8 million dollars in damages for Avery's lost earnings, the destruction of his capacity to enjoy life, his death by being run over by a locomotive, and punitive damages.
Jim Avery's 11-year-old daughter Corey is the beneficiary of the judgment. In the words of Jim's father Robert Avery, "There's no amount of money that can make up for Jimmy's life. But the verdict helps explain his death and assures that his daughter will be taken care of the way Jimmy would want it." Cahill & Perry, P.C. is proud to have won a historic verdict that vindicates Jimmy while ensuring that the daughter he loved so much will have every advantage life can offer.
63-Year-Old Foreman with Double Leg Amputation
Cahill & Perry, P.C. has forced Metro-North Railroad to pay the largest amount of money in its history for a FELA case: $7 million in cash. George Cahill and Charlie obtained this record-breaking result on behalf of their client Metro-North Foreman Herbie Renert.
Both of Herbie's legs were amputated due to the negligence of Metro-North in dragging rail cars out of Stamford Shop by means of a forklift with a 12 foot cable and hook. The forklift came to an abrupt halt when the operator drove the forklift into a stairway landing, but the rail cars continued moving forward. Herbie attempted to unhook the cable, but within seconds his legs were traumatically severed when he was trapped between the moving cars and the forklift cable.
Cahill & Perry claimed Metro-North was negligent for moving rail cars with a forklift and cable in order to avoid the expense of a switching crew or a motorized Rail Car Mover, and for using a forklift that was 2" too high to clear the known obstruction of a staircase next to the shop track. The Railroad had no rules or written procedures pertaining to the removal of a cable and hook in such a situation. In fact, this was the first time Herbie had performed that task and he was doing so without any instructions or training and without the usual level of manpower the Railroad normally employed when performing such a hazardous operation.
Metro-North denied it was negligent in causing Herbie's injuries and tried to blame Herbie for not radioing the employee in the head end of the triplet to stop the cars (despite the fact Herbie needed his two hands to remove the hook within a matter of seconds, and had no time to remove the radio from his pocket and radio the employee on the head end in time to stop the train).
A week before trial was set to begin in federal court, the parties engaged in a day long mediation session before retired United States District Judge Robert C. Zampano. In their presentation George Cahill and Charlie used photographs, a model of the accident site, and a day in the life video. The theme of their case was: "Metro-North cut corners to save money, and ended up cutting off Herbie Renert's legs." The case settled that day for a lump sum cash payment of $7 million.
$5.5 Million Settlement for Metro-North Railroad Worker
Connecticut Post, Thursday, March 11, 2004
JEFFREY PIEGER'S last thoughts on March 5, 2002, were of his wife and three young children.
The Metro-North machinist struggled to his feet with the help of co-workers and asked them to telephone his wife, Michelle, at her mother's house, just moments after a rail car pinned him against a wheel grinding machine in Metro-North's New Haven yard.
"Jeff was a big man, 275 pounds," said George Cahill Jr., one of the lawyers with Cahill, and Perry of New Haven that represents Pieger's estate. "His chest was crushed in to about 3 inches. He knew he wasn't going to make it. He wanted to tell his wife how much he loved her and their children."
Pieger, who was 36 when he died, never got that chance. He died 25 minutes after the accident.
But on Wednesday, Cahill and his partner, Charles , hammered out a record $5.5 million settlement for the family with Metro-North.
The attorneys believe this will provide for Jeff's wife and three young children as Jeff would have wanted.
"There's no amount of money that could make up for the loss of a husband and a father," Cahill said.
"This settlement comes [near] the second anniversary of Jeff's death." Michelle Pieger said. "I just feel he's still watching over us."
The settlement is believed to be the largest ever reached in a federal case brought under the Federal Employees Liability Act for a wrongful death.
Metro-North admitted no wrongdoing in settling the case just a day before jury selection was to begin before U.S. district Judge Stefan R. Underhill in Bridgeport federal court. The trial was to start March 22.
The settlement also occurred just hours after Robert Ard Jr., 46, of Fairfield, a 28-year conductor, was crushed to death at Metro-North's Stamford rail yard Tuesday night.
Dan Brucker, a spokesman for Metro-North, declined to comment on the Pieger settlement.
Cathleen Ann Giannetta and William Cobb, lawyers with Landman, Corsi, Ballaine and Ford, the law firm representing Metro-North, failed to return calls for comment.
Borth sides met with U.S. Magistrate Judge William I. Garfinkel Friday in Bridgeport in an attempt to settle the case. However, the final agreement was not reached until Wednesday morning.
It must now be approved by the Probate Court in West Haven where the Pieger's lived at the time of his death.
Pieger's death came five years after a similar accident resulted in the amputation of Herbert Renert's legs following an accident at the Stamford Metro-North Yard.
Following the Renert accident, Metro-North formed a committee they named the Renert Committee to study and recommend how to safely move cars in and out of repair shops, according to .
The committee recommended and Metro-North spent $225,000 to purchase a Shuttle Wagon to move the cars at the New Haven yard.
However, on the day of the fatal accident, the wagon was not being used. Instead, the cars were being moved by a motorized device called a capstan, pulling the cars by rope.
"There's no excuse for that," said Cahill. "If it was used, he'd be alive today."
Pieger's work involved grinding a railroad car's steel wheels to correct cracks from normal operation. He had only been on the job for nine months.
Pieger was in a pit ensuring that the car's wheels lined up with the grinding machine. After grinding one wheel, Pieger and a second worker were moving the next wheel into place when the car rolled forward and an extended portion, called a third-rail shoe, pinned Pieger against the wheel-cutting machine.
His lawyers said Pieger was pounding on the side of the car because of the excruciating pain.
"Jeff's 40 years' future life expectancy was crushed into 25 minutes of mortal agony," said . "Twenty-five minutes of excruciating physical pain from his broken ribs, torn diaphragm and internal bleeding. Twenty five minutes of knowing that his life was rapidly melting away. Knowing he would never see his wife and children again and knowing he would never kiss and hug them to say goodbye."
Once he was in the ambulance, Pieger told the EMTs about the pain and was able to respond to their questions by nodding his head before finally losing consciousness. He was pronounced dead at Yale-New Haven Hospital, according to his lawyers.
Cahill & Perry settled the Renert case for $7 million dollars.
Article by Thomas B. Scheffey, The Connecticut Law Tribune
Lineman Burned After Being Electrocuted While Working on Track
A jury in federal court in Bridgeport deliberated only 90 minutes Wednesday before awarding a Metro-North apprentice lineman $2 million for burns he received after being electrocuted while working on the railroad's track in the Devon section of Milford.
The jury verdict awarded to Terrance Curly was the largest ever obtained in any federal court against Metro-North Commuter Railroad, according to John G. DiPersia, a New Haven lawyer representing the victim.
Daniel Brucker, a spokesman for the railroad, said Metro-North believes the award is "excessive" and is "leaning toward an appeal."
The railroad's lawyer, Patrick Flaherty of Hartford, who tried the case, did not return a telephone call.
On Monday, the six-member jury heard Curly, 32 of Brewster, NY, graphically describe how he was burned on July 30, 1989.
Curly said he was told by his foreman, William Callahan, to pick up and cut a wire that turned out to be a live electrical connection.
The action sent 13,200 volts through his body and set him aflame.
"My shirt melted into my skin," he told the jury.
He spent the next several weeks in the Bridgeport Hospital burn unit undergoing treatment and skin grafts for the second degree burns that covered 20 percent of his body.
Medical bills of $36,000 were submitted into evidence during the trial before U.S. District Judge T.F. Gilroy Daly.
"We thought it was very just and fair," DiPersia said of the award. "He [Curly] was treated very callously by the railroad. They never reached out and tried to help him."
Instead, DiPersia said Metro-North fired Curly just one day after he returned to work on April 25 of this year.
"They said they fired him because he was on medication," said DiPersia. "They knew for weeks he was on medication for the psychological trauma [post traumatic stress disorder] the injury caused."
Brucker, disputing this claim, said Curly is still an employee of the railroad but is on long-term disability. He also said Callahan has been disqualified from his foreman job, but is still employed.
DiPersia also accused Metro-North of hiring a private investigator to conduct surveillance of his client. None of that information was introduced during the three-day trial.
Three-Man New Haven Boutique Has Never Lost a Case
Article by Caroline V. Clarke, The Connecticut Law Tribune
When New Haven lawyer persuaded a Hartford jury earlier this month to award a disabled Amtrak foreman $1,581,116, word spread like wildfire throughout the railroad community.
The verdict came May 12, a Friday, and all that weekend and his two partners received calls at home from people offering congratulations and thanking them for helping a member of Connecticut's close-knit railroad family.
It wasn't the first time they'd gotten that kind of response.
The law firm of Cahill, , & DiPersia handles only railroad-related cases, only on a contingency-fee basis and without the help of any associates. In eight years they haven't lost a single case, and they can't remember a jury ever returning a verdict of less than three times' the amount of the last settlement offer made by the defense.
George J. Cahill, and , both 38, and John D. DiPersia, 37 form a trio of proud, often playful plaintiff's lawyers who credit their success to an intense focus on " the three Cs" -- confidence, control, and credibility. Each also lives in mortal fear of being the first member of the firm to lose a case, and they say it is that self-imposed terror and good-humored competition that keeps them winning.
The firm is the only one in Connecticut handling Federal Employers' Liability Act suits -- a workman's compensation system for railroad workers that dates back to the turn of the century -- and one of about a dozen like it in the country. The idea is Cahill's brainchild, and his partners consider him to be their "anchor."
Although Cahill comes across as being ultra-calm, often deferring to his partners -- DiPersia, a flashy, feisty ex-boxer, and , a courteous, even-tempered intellectual -- those same partners, also very close friends, claim "the ol' Cahill fire is hidden just beneath the surface, and when it comes out, watch out!"
Reared in New Haven, the son, grandson, nephew, brother and cousin of more than a dozen railroad workers, Cahill followed suit. Even during law school he moonlighted as a conductor, and after joining a firm in Boston, he saw no reason to stop.
When Cahill returned to New Haven and opened an office on the second floor of his father's house, he continued working as a night conductor, taking runs between New Haven and New York's Grand Central Station.
"The money I earned handling criminal cases and divorce work, probate matters and real estate closings all was used to finance the personal injury work I was doing because at that time I really had no money to obtain medical reports and paper depositions and so forth." Cahill said. It was his work with the railroad that was feeding his family, he said.
But then, in November 1978, he got his first trial. The case was very similar to the one that led to 's latest victory. A 55-year-old conductor had slipped and fallen on an icy crossing at the New Haven passenger station during a blizzard the previous year. In one of Judge Ellen Bree Burns' first cases on the federal bench, the jury awarded Cahill's client $600,000.
It was a pivotal moment for Cahill. Business immediately took a dramatic upswing, and just as quickly Cahill was fired from the railroad for disloyalty.
What upset the railroad was not so much the fact that I hit them up for $600,000," Cahill said, chuckling at the memory. "But when they heard I worked the train as a conductor that evening and picked up an additional $65, that was more than they could handle."
The story is a favorite among all three partners, since it was at that trial that Cahill met , a Harvard Law School graduate and Burns' clerk at the time. And Cahill had enlisted the help of a law school chum, DiPersia, then an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board, in preparing witnesses for the trial. The two had attended the New England School of Law together.
Little did they know that within a few years they would become a highly specialized team using FELA on behalf of a very distinct and loyal clientele.
A Small Corner of the Law
The partners recognize the vulnerability of such a highly specialized practice, noting that Congress has posed serious threats to FELA in the past. It appears as if the law will survive, but in the event that it is wiped off of the books one day, Cahill, and DiPersia said they would persevere, but they would be forced to change the nature of their practice, they said, and would miss it tremendously.
The three said they understand the perception of the narrowness of their practice as a weakness, but they see it as a strength.
"Because we specialize and can focus intensely on what we're doing, it's a tremendous strength and no one [with a broader-based practice] can compete with us in this field," DiPersia said.
"The railroad is a subculture," said. "They have special laws that apply only to the railroad. There's FELA -- that's totally different from the workmen's compensation scheme that everybody else lives by. They have the Railway Labor Act, which is its own special labor statute, different from the Labor Relations Act. They have the Railroad Retirement Board which replaces Social Security -- these people aren't covered by Social Security.
"It goes on and on," said. "There are special rules, laws, practices and customs. It's a very special and distinct culture. Ninety-nine percent of the lawyers that I talk to kind of scratch their heads when I mention FELA. It's a small corner of the law where, if you don't work with it, you have no idea what it's all about."
While Cahill always wanted to represent railroad workers and DiPersia's interest in law was always labor-oriented, railroad law is the last thing ever expected to be doing.
He had intended to teach law, and applied for a clerkship with Burns only because he believed "the best teachers had some experience in the real world." It was through clerking that he caught the trial bug, but after about a year at Tyler Cooper & Alcorn, he was pleased to get a call "out of the blue" from Cahill, who was looking for a partner.
"I liked [Tyler Cooper], but it was being a cog in a wheel," said. "It was frustrating because I wasn't getting the opportunity to try cases."
On their Own
Now, working with a staff of two secretaries in an airy vintage brick house, and his partners each average about 75 cases a year, about 95 percent of which are settled, they said. But they are quick to emphasize, as said, that "every case we take has the presumptions it's going to trial, and we treat it accordingly."
Treating it accordingly means one partner handles every aspect of his case from beginning to end. They claim that their secretaries, Marilyn Donroe and Denise Boyer, are "the best in the world." But they said they "don't believe in associates."
"I personally could not imagine somebody else doing any of the work on one of my cases and just handing something to me, as I see all the time with my opposition," said DiPersia, nicknamed "The Torpedo" because, as said, "you point him in one direction and he's going to go and sink the target."
"It would be so-nonproductive because I'd be in here late at night checking through everything, duplicating all the work," DiPersia said.
Most partners might be inclined to believe that without the help of associates they'd be in the office all hours anyway. But these partners seem to believe that taking on the entire burden of a case themselves streamlines the work and leaves them better prepared at trial than an attorney with a dozen associates at his or her disposal.
At trial last fall in which secured a $1,650,000 verdict against Metro-North, his opposing attorney was dying to know 's "secret".
"He was very perplexed," said. "He saw I didn't have any associates and he couldn't figure out how I was so well prepared. I told him, "If you did the work yourself in the beginning and limited yourself to a reasonable number of cases so that you can maximize your effect in those cases, then you'd be able to do it."
At a trial, Cahill, & DiPersia appear with their own self-written "bible" -- a 4-inch thick binder containing 21 meticulously organized sections containing everything from "Things to Do" to "Depositions."
"When [the opposition] sees this, the sense of fear and awe is there," DiPersia said. "You can see the fear in the other guy's eyes. It's like being in the ring. You just know when the other guy doesn't want to get hit anymore. You just see it in his eyes that he's afraid.
"That's what preparation does for you in the courtroom," he said, banging on the trial book. "You just feel that you're in control. And I don't think I could ever feel that way if somebody else was doing work for me and handling it over for me to rely on."
Still, for all the confidence, control and credibility -- enough to have gained an enviable track record with juries throughout the Northeast -- Cahill & DiPersia said they always feel the treat of that first inevitable lost case.
They don't want to be on the receiving end of the calls they are certain they will get when it happens. And for all their teamwork and friendship, each of them dreads the ribbing he will have to face from the others should he be the one to strike lead first.
In the meantime, said, they will "just try to stay on track." Cahill groaned loudly at the pun, and DiPersia threw him a playful punch.