Injured Railroad Worker Receives $5.3 Million Verdict Against Metra in Train Accident

Langdon & Emison Partner Brett Emison leads trial team during five-week jury trial

A Cook County, Illinois jury awarded Christopher Cravatta $5.3 million in a unanimous verdict after a five-week trial in Chicago after he sustained devastating injuries while working as an engineer for Metra.  Cravatta sustained an annular tear in his L4-5 disc requiring surgery and was unable to return to work as an engineer after Metra medically disqualified him from the job.  He was injured when he slipped on a combination of oil, snow, and ice while stepping from the locomotive to a passenger car at Chicago’s Union Station.

Emison led the team at trial, which also included Ken Barnes of the Barnes Law Firm in Kansas City; Nicholas Cronauer of Burns, Cronauer & Brown in Sycamore, Illinois; and Tim Ocasek of Cooney & Conway in Chicago.

“We told the jury from the very start of trial that everyone – even Metra – must follow the law,” Emison said.  “Railroad safety laws are there to protect everyone:  the public, passengers, and crew members.”

Our trial team proved that Metra violated the Locomotive Inspection Act and Passenger Equipment Safety Standards that required Metra to keep its locomotive and passenger cars free from slipping and tripping hazards including oil, snow and ice. 

Metra contested the case vigorously.  During closing argument, Metra’s lawyer told jurors, “I want you to know before I sit down I don’t agree with these guys about anything as it relates to this case.” 

Photographs after the incident suggested there were several inches of snow and ice on the passenger car at the time Mr. Cravatta was injured.  Reports and letters from the union also showed an ongoing problem of oil accumulating in the locomotive engine room walkway.

“The law is clear.  When you have oil, snow and ice packed in areas like this, Metra is responsible for the harm,” said Barnes.  “Juries are guardians of the community.  Their verdict told Metra that it has to follow the law.”

Brett currently serves as a Board Member of the American Association for Justice and on the Executive Committee of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys.  He tries cases across the country on behalf of catastrophically injured clients and their families.

Ken Barnes is the founder of the Barnes Law Firm, LLC.  He is a member of the Executive Committee of the Missouri Association of Trial Attorneys and a long-time railroad employee safety advocate.

Nicholas Cronauer is a partner of Burns, Cronauer & Brown, LLP.  He is a member of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association, along with groups devoted to ensuring safety within our communities and equal access to the civil justice system.