Missouri girl awarded record $17 million in damages against BNSF Railway

Jury awards $17M to Cape Girardeau Co. crash victim

CAPE GIRARDEAU COUNTY, Mo. (KFVS) - A Missouri girl was awarded $17 million in a personal injury case against BNSF Railway.

Attorney and partner at Cook, Barkett, Ponder & Wolz, J., Michael Ponder, said the girl, who was identified in the lawsuit as E.H.S., suffered massive brain injuries, a torn aorta, kidney and liver damage, multiple fractures, a collapsed lung and a broken femur as the result of the crash.

The victim was awarded $12 million in damages and an additional $5 million for punitive damages after a two-week-long trial, Ponder said.

We reached out to the railroad company concerning the ruling.

“While BNSF is sympathetic to the family involved in this tragic accident, we believe speeding and weather significantly contributed to the incident. We are concerned that the verdict form did not allow the jury to allocate liability against other potentially responsible parties and are exploring our options for next steps, including filing an appeal.”
Andy Williams, BNSF Regional Public Affairs Director

The crash involved a concrete traffic barrier at BNSF’s railroad crossing on Route AB in rural Cape Girardeau County, Mo.

Attorney Michael Ponder said the barrier was installed in violation of Missouri Department of Transportation and railroad crossing design standards.

According to Ponder, the standards say that this type of barrier may be used on roads with speed limits of 40 miles per hour or less.

The speed limit at the crash location was 60 miles per hour at the time.

Ponder said multiple requests were made between 2011 and 2016 for BNSF to allow the department of transportation to replace the barrier.

“Between 2011 and 2016, 14 other crashes occurred as a result of this barrier prior to the crash involving our client. BNSF made an intentional decision to install a dangerous barrier, and they made an intentional decision to prevent MoDOT from replacing it, despite multiple requests to do so over the course of five years,” said Ponder.

The lawsuit accused the railroad company of providing design plans for the barrier that were inappropriate, unsuitable and unsafe for use on a highway with a speed limit of more than 40 miles per hour.

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