A Chicago jury awarded a train engineer damages for an injury he sustained while operating a Metra train; Clarence Hatchett v. Metra, 09 L 5185. The award came after a Cook County injury trial in which the railroad attempted to prove the train engineer was at fault for his own injury, a theory that the jury seemed to agree with – it apportioned 70% of the train accident to the engineer.
The train injury took place in January 2009, while the plaintiff, Clarence Hatchett, was employed by Metra Rail. Hatchett was about to depart from Chicago’s Union Station on Metra’s Milwaukee District North Central Line when he did what many driver’s do before departing- he tried to adjust his engineer’s seat.
At the Cook County trial Hatchett explained that he determines his seat back position based on his ability to easily reach the automatic break. However, Hatchett was unable to reach his ideal seat position because the seat back was stuck in a forward position, leaving him roughly six inches further forward than he would have liked. However, Hatchett made no further attempts to adjust the stuck train seat and departed from Union Station.
As Hatchett’s train approached the line’s track crossovers located near Franklin Park, he needed to reach back to apply the automatic break. As he did so, Hatchett heard a loud pop and felt immediate pain in his left shoulder. A later diagnosis revealed that Hatchett had sustained from a torn tendon in his left rotator cuff, for which he would require a total shoulder replacement.
Despite the prior existence of Grade III and Grade IV shoulder injuries, Hatchett attributed the rotator cuff tear to the pop he heard while reaching for the automatic break. He brought a FELA lawsuit against his employer, Metra, for the medical bills related to the injury, his lost time from work, and general pain and suffering.