On 3/3/09, I worked for Metro-North Railroad as a trackman and was sent out with a co-worker to pick up scrap rail along the Hudson Division Line’s right of way using a boom truck. The co-worker was not qualified to operate the boom and extended the boom up into a 7,500 volt utility line. The electricity traveled down the boom cable and through a rail tong I was holding causing me to be violently propelled backwards. I struck my head on the ground and became unconscious. Before I passed out, I was unable to lower my arms or unclench my fists and thought I was dying.
I was taken to St. Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie, N.Y. where I was diagnosed with multiple injuries including the destruction of musculoskeletal muscle fiber that could cause kidney failure as well as a concussion and other neurologic injuries. I remained hospitalized for three days and then came under the care of neurologists and an orthopedist. Since that time, I have remained unsteady on my feet and have great difficulty walking more than a few blocks.
Shortly after being discharged from the hospital, Metro-North’s Medical Department started scheduling appointments for me to be examined in their New York City offices, even though I could barely walk. I decided to hire Ira Maurer from the Maurer Law Firm on the advice of several co-workers. Ira explained the entire litigation process to me so I could understand it and also told me how the railroad has departments that use procedures designed to do whatever is necessary to limit the amount of damages the railroad would have to pay me for my injury.
Ira took total control from the start. Through the litigation process, Ira was able to develop evidence that forced Metro-North to admit liability and accept total responsibility for the accident. Ira also took testimony from the railroad’s Medical department staff and established that the railroad’s own Medical Department had permanently disqualified me from working as a trackman. Ira had me apply for an alternative job at the railroad. The railroad tried to ignore my requests for reasonable accommodation of my disability under the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), but Ira kept after them and forced the railroad to finally acknowledge that there were no jobs available for me now or in the near future. Ira had me go to the New York State VESID (Vocational Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities) agency for free vocational rehab services and guided me through the process to get me retrained.
As part of the litigation process, Metro-North Railroad had me examined by two doctors hired by Metro-North to help defend the railroad. Both Dr. Unis and Dr. Herbstein said there was nothing objectively wrong with me when they examined me and both said I could immediately return to my job as a trackman without restrictions. In July of 2010, we started the trial before federal judge Stephen C. Robinson. The railroad told the jury to ignore the fact that its own Medical Department had permanently disqualified me and that I could go back to work as a trackman at any time. The railroad argued to the jury that I did not have any objective tests that proved I had permanent nerve damage as testified to by my own treating neurologist. The jury returned a verdict of approximately $680,000. Ira moved to set aside the verdict as inconsistent with the evidence and shockingly low. Judge Robinson agreed with Ira and set aside the verdict.
Prior to the recent re-trial, I was sent by my neurologist, Dr. Orly Avitzur, for a very sophisticated neurologic test called a SSEP (Somatosensory Evoked Potential) test to look for objective evidence of nerve damage. The test was positive for nerve damage in my legs. When we went back to re-try the case, Metro-North made a pre-trial motion to prevent the jury from hearing about the SSEP test results. The railroad also tried to keep Ira from using an exhibit that clearly spelled out the money I have lost as a result of losing my job at Metro-North. The new judge assigned to the case for the re-trial denied the railroad’s motion to keep the SSEP test results out of the trial and overruled the railroad’s objections to the monetary damages exhibit.
During the trial, Ira used his extensive medical knowledge and razor sharp trial skills to catch the railroad’s neurology expert in inconsistent statements that undermined the doctor’s credibility with the jury. Ira also brought out the fact that Dr. Unis, the railroad’s orthopedic expert had been used to evaluate Metro-North employees fifty times in the last 5 years, information Ira successfully obtained by Court Order before trial. This clearly showed that Dr. Unis had an ongoing business relationship with the railroad and could be considered biased in his opinions.
The jury in the second trial returned a verdict of $2,638,893 to compensate me for my past and future pain and suffering, past and future wage loss, future fringe benefit loss and future medical expenses. During the course of the lawsuit, I came to see that Ira is a man of integrity and fiercely loyal to his clients. I will always be grateful to Ira for helping me to rebuild my life and provide for my family again.
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