Jury Sticks LIRR With $911K Bill For Signal Worker's Injury
By Pete Brush Law360,
New York (May 11, 2017, 5:48 PM EDT) --
A Manhattan jury hit the Long Island Railroad with a $991,000 damages verdict Thursday, finding that the railroad was negligent when it put signal worker Daniel Curran into a “work hardening” physical therapy program he claimed exacerbated an on-the-job back injury.
The jury of seven men and one woman needed about four hours to make its decision after a three-day trial before U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos, who denied the railroad's motion for summary judgment against plaintiff Daniel Curran last year.
The jury declined to find the railroad negligent for a July 2012 rail-buckling problem called a heat kink — Curran claims he was injured during an emergency repair mission to fix that issue — but it held that the LIRR shouldn't have pushed Curran in October of that year to do physical therapy that was beyond his limits.
Curran's counsel, Marc Wietzke of Flynn & Wietzke PC, told the jury during morning closing arguments that the “work hardening” therapy derailed his recovery.
“There was no timeline for him to be out of therapy,” Wietzke said. “Why push him so hard?”
After the verdict LIRR counsel John A. Bonventre of Landman Corsi Ballaine & Ford PC asked to make post-trial motions — a clear indication that the railroad will continue to contest Curran's allegations.
Bonventre sharply challenged the negligence allegations during morning closings, suggesting that Curran's story did not pass the “smell test.”
“Is Mr. Curran telling the truth? We know he has reason to exaggerate” Bonventre said, suggesting the plaintiff was out for an easy payday.
Bonventre rejected Curran's assertion that the railroad threatened him with termination if he did not enroll in the work hardening program, calling it a fanciful claim akin to “an offer he could not refuse” from “The Godfather.”
Curran testified earlier in the week that a supervisor from the LIRR back-to-work therapy program pressured him to join.
“It could be insubordination. You could be out on the street,” Curran testified he was told.
Curran has been paid about $360,000 during the time he has not been working. The railroad will be able to offset any damages he ultimately recovers by that amount.
Counsel for both sides declined comment after the verdict.
Curran is represented by Marc Wietzke of Flynn & Wietzke PC.
The railroad is represented by John A. Bonventre and Andrew J. Kornblau of Landman Corsi Ballaine & Ford PC.
The case is Curran v. Long Island Railroad Co., case number 1:13-cv-08452, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.