Texas State Jury Awards Over $ 8.4 Million To Truck Driver For Injuries Sustained In Fall From Hopper Car In Railyard Owned By Defendant Railroad
Charles Knighton filed an action against The Blacklands Railroad in the 62nd District Court; Hopkins Co., TX. Knighton alleged that the railroad was negligent because its conductor had told him that he could go to work on top of the hopper car, and then the conductor instructed the locomotive engineer to engage in a coupling movement without making sure that Knighton was clear of all of the connected railcars. The Blacklands Railroad denied that its conductor had given Knighton permission to go to work on top of any railcars. The defendant also contended that the coupling movement was too gentle to have moved the hopper car on which the plaintiff was working approximately six railcars away. Moreover, the defendant suggested that the plaintiff fell because he probably lost his footing on top of the hopper car.
Knighton did not file suit against his employer, Mountain View Hauling (who was covered by workers' compensation insurance) or Pilgrim's Pride Corporation (the owner of the feed and the hopper car). Defendant, however, designated both of those companies as "Responsible Third Parties." Pilgrim's Pride Corporation had contracted to have Mountain View Hauling transport the feed to the railyard and load it into the hopper cars and Pilgrim's Pride Corporation had contracted to have defendant transport the loaded hopper cars to customers of Pilgrim's Pride Corporation. Pilgrim's Pride Corporation and Mountain View Hauling were designated as responsible third parties because they did not provide plaintiff with any fall protection to perform his work at a height of 15 feet on top of the railcars. More specifically, defendant contended that Pilgrim's Pride Corporation and Mountain View Hauling should have provided plaintiff with a man lift as well as a safety harness and lanyard, or similar fall protection equipment, which Pilgrim's Pride Corporation and Mountain View Hauling did provide to other truck drivers after Knighton's injury. Pilgrim's Pride Corporation eventually paid Knighton $ 125,000.00 to be released from the litigation prior to trial. This settlement of $ 125,000.00 would be credited against any judgment entered against defendant.
The matter proceeded to a four and a half day jury trial held before Judge Will Biard. On May 23, 2017, the jury reached a verdict in Knighton's favor, finding Blacklands Railroad to be 100% liable for his injuries and Mountain View Hauling and Pilgrim's Pride Corporation both having no liability. The amount of the award totaled $ 8,480,880.53 (including prejudgment interest of $ 194,987.53 and taxable court costs of $ 17,158.00).
Plaintiff was represented by Randy Roberts and Michael Ace of Roberts & Roberts in Tyler, Texas, as well as John Ginn of Smith, McDowell, Ginn in Sulphur Springs, Texas. Defendant was represented by Wayne (Lyn) Robbins and Susan Travis of Robbins Travis in Southlake, Texas.
Lexis Advance Subscribers may view the complete summary, including expert witness information, here: Charles Knighton v. The Blacklands Railroad; 2017 Jury Verdicts LEXIS 1563
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Workers’ Compensation Attorney Frank D. Weedon Joins Roberts & Roberts
Texas workers’ compensation attorney Frank D. Weedon has joined the Tyler-based personal injury law firm of Roberts & Roberts. Frank is Board Certified in Workers’ Compensation Law, a distinction held by less than 100 attorneys in the state of Texas.
A native Texan, Frank received a B.A. in Economics from the University of Texas-Arlington and his J.D. from South Texas College of Law. He is licensed to practice in all Texas courts, as well as in the United States District Court’s Eastern and Southern Districts.
Frank began his career working in the insurance claims industry, starting as a file room clerk and advancing to a catastrophic workers’ compensation adjuster, investigating complex industrial injury claims. Upon graduation from law school in 1998, he started his practice as an insurance defense attorney representing large corporations and many major Texas insurers. In 2002, he transitioned his practice to representing plaintiffs and victims of injury in East Texas.
Frank has special competence in industrial and work-related injuries and has handled thousands of such claims as an adjuster and attorney. He is OSHA certified and SafeLand Drilling certified by the Petroleum Education Council.
Frank is widely recognized as an expert in insurance claims-handling tactics and has testified as an expert witness approximately 90 times in federal and state courts in Texas, Oklahoma, and Arizona. In addition, he has instructed insurance adjusters on how to handle claims as an approved provider through the Texas Department of Insurance. Frank is a frequent lecturer at State Bar Of Texas events and has twice testified at the Texas Legislature on behalf of injured workers.
Frank is a member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and the Texas Trial Lawyers Association. He is active in his church, serving on various boards and committees. He and his wife have three daughters and one granddaughter.