JACKSON, MO (KTVI)– A railroad worker, who won a $12.5 million judgment this week after he lost a leg in a rail yard accident, says he would rather have full use of his leg that the monetary award.
51-year old Mike Bolen of Jackson, MO tripped on a large rock and fell beneath a moving rail car in May of 2012 at the Crystal City switching yard.
The civil damage suit against BNSF railroad produced one of the largest awards in Jefferson County history. Bolen`s attorney, Nelson Wolff called the verdict ‘significant.’ ‘It does send a message we think to the railroad that they should start paying better attention to their working conditions,’ he said.
The daytime accident happened on a narrow walkway separating two tracks that run between the Mississippi River and limestone bluffs. Bolen said he had encountered large rocks or ballast here in the past. “It was unfortunate. It was an accident. I feel the railroad didn`t provide me safe walking conditions, and that was the cause of the accident.”
A spokesman for BNSF Railroad, Andy Williams, expressed sympathy for Bolen but said the firm believes, ‘ the verdict is not supported by the facts.’ BNSF refuses to admit any responsibility for the accident. The firm may appeal the verdict.
Bolen said the accident has changed every aspect of his life. “I`m the type that likes to be outside climbing ladders, maintenance type work where I`m stooping or bending , being on my knees..things like that with this prosthetic now I can`t do those type of things.” Since he cannot walk on uneven surfaces, Bolen has been forced to give up hiking, outdoor sports and even missionary work for his church in Central America.
Wolff said the railroad investigators initially identified and photographed the large rock as evidence in the case, but later told the jury Bolen was lying about what happened.
All twelve members of the jury sided with Bolen and awarded him twelve and a half million dollars.
Bolen said he hopes the verdict will produce better safety conditions for his coworkers.
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