Home > Services > Railroad

RAILROAD

Our nationally recognized railroad practice dates back to when steam locomotives dominated the rails. Our relationship with the industry continues to this day with one of the largest practices in the country—26 attorneys and 10 paralegals working together to represent numerous Class I, regional and short line railroads. We know the business, its people and its history.

The scope of service we provide to the industry is all-encompassing. Thompson Coburn defends FELA traumatic and occupational claims, third-party tort claims, labor cases, environmental matters, freight disputes and disputes about side track agreements. We also provide real estate, regulatory and corporate assistance to major railroads. We also play a significant role in shaping railroad law, participating in the regulatory process and obtaining successful results in federal and state appeals courts. This extensive work has been recognized by the U.S. News “Best Law Firms” list, which has awarded our practice a national first-tier ranking multiple times.

Our decades of experience includes representing such notable clients as the Norfolk and Western Railway; New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad; and St. Louis Southwestern Railway. Now we count some of the biggest names in the industry as our clients—BNSF Railway, CSX Transportation, Canadian National Railway, Kansas City Southern Railway, Norfolk Southern and Union Pacific Railroad.

We are proud of our relationships with our railroad clients. We work hand-in-hand with clients to achieve their objectives, combining an understanding of their needs with our knowledge of the industry. We apply the depth of our industry knowledge, talented personnel and cutting-edge technology to ensure the highest quality of service in a timely and cost-efficient manner.

We are pioneers in the use of alternative billing arrangements and database management. In addition, we are always cognizant of the need for early, high-quality evaluations of difficult cases. Perhaps most important, at all levels of the firm we stress the need for imaginative approaches to tough cases and the importance of prompt and timely communication.

Litigation

Brubaker v. Union Pacific Railroad Company 
Plaintiff alleged that he was injured during the course of his employment as a locomotive engineer. The Court affirmed a very low verdict for the plaintiff and issued a lengthy opinion that rejected numerous challenges of the lower court's rulings, including dismissal of one count. The opinion rejected plaintiff's attacks on the evidence of plaintiff's failure to mitigate his damages – an important issue for all railroads in Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) litigation.

Petersen vs. Union Pacific Railroad Company 
Thompson Coburn represented Union Pacific on 5 separate claims involving significant personal injuries and two fatalities. Plaintiffs claimed that the flashing signals were not operating at the time of the accident. The case was tried in federal court in Springfield, Illinois for 3-1/2 weeks with the plaintiffs requesting $43 million in damages in their closing arguments. The jury deliberated for 1 hour and 20 minutes before returning defense verdicts on all the claims.

Bradshaw vs. Union Pacific Railroad Company 
Thompson Coburn represented Union Pacific in a cumulative trauma double knee joint replacement in St. Clair County, Illinois. The plaintiff was a conductor who claimed walking on ballast along the tracks, getting on and off moving equipment and climbing ladders on railcars to set and release handbrakes throughout his career caused him to develop degenerative conditions in his knees. The week-and-a-half-long trial resulted in the jury returning defense verdicts on all counts of plaintiff’s Complaint.

Smith v. Illinois Central R.R. Co.
This case was originally filed as a class action in St. Clair County, Illinois arising from the derailment of a train with rail cars containing chemicals such as hydrochloric acid, vinyl chloride and methanol. The Illinois Supreme Court unanimously reversed the Fifth District’s class certification ruling and remanded the case.

Labor and Employment

Union Pac. R.R. Co. v. Surface Transportation Board 
Union and former employees initially prevailed in arbitration seeking severance benefits for approximately 310 employees, claiming that their job losses were causally related to a railroad merger. Each employee claimed to six years of severance pay, totaling approximately $21.2 million plus interest. Upon appeal to the Surface Transportation Board and then to the D.C. Circuit, the arbitrator’s finding was reversed, holding that there was no evidence in the record to support the finding that the outsourcing of MIS was causally related to the merger. The Court found that the STB acted arbitrarily and capriciously in upholding the finding.

Successfully defended lawsuits alleging bad faith actions by a major railroad involving its maintenance of way workers in the spring of 2007 and the spring of 2008.

Real Estate, Zoning and Land Use

Norfolk Southern Railway Company v. Ameren Corporation 
We successfully contested Ameren’s right to use a 7-mile stretch of right-of-way in the St. Louis metropolitan area. The railroad terminated Ameren’s license for use of the rail corridor and Ameren counter-claimed for condemnation of part of the utility corridor. The case settled favorably on the basis of corridor value shortly before trial and after partial summary judgment in favor of the railroad.

State of Missouri ex rel. Nixon v. Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Union Pacific Railroad Company 
Former Missouri Attorney General Jay Nixon alleged that the Boonville Bridge was part of the Katy Trail, pursuant to a trails agreement, and asserted a property interest in the bridge. The railroad wanted to dismantle the abandoned bridge and use it to construct a new bridge over the Osage River. We prevailed on summary judgment in Cole County and held the judgment on appeal to the Western District Court of Appeals. We also represented the railroad before the Clean Water Commission, which upheld issuance of the DNR permit.

Johnson Bootheel Properties LLC v. Coppage and Union Pacific Railroad Company 
We represented the railroad in this quiet title and slander of title action involving the railroad’s sale of excess right-of-way.

Appellate

Norfolk Southern Railway Company v. Sorrell 
Missouri’s jury instructions erroneously provided for different causation standards for an employer’s negligence and an employee’s contributory negligence under FELA.

Union Pac. R.R. Co. v. United States 
Southern Pacific Empowered Employees Committee and four individual claimants commenced arbitration seeking severance benefits on behalf of approximately 310 former employees of the Southern Pacific Transportation Company (“SPTC”) who had lost their jobs when SPTC outsourced its MIS department. After an arbitrator ruled in favor of SPEEC on liability, Union Pacific Railroad (the successor to SPTC) appealed to the Surface Transportation Board. The STB affirmed the arbitrator and Union Pacific appealed to the D.C. Circuit where the ruling was reversed.

Eagle Marine Industries, Inc., et al. v. Union Pacific Railroad Company 
Injunction against blocking of railroad crossing pre-empted by the Federal Railroad Safety Authorization Act of 1994 (“FRSA”) and violates Commerce Clause of United States Constitution.

Dawdy v. Union Pacific R. Co.
Trial court abused its discretion in denying railroad’s motion to transfer to another county for forum non conveniens.

Alcorn v. Union Pacific R. Co.
Punitive damage award of $50 million (reduced from a jury award of $120 million) in crossing case reversed for lack of sufficient evidence of complete indifference or conscious disregard of plaintiff’s safety.

Chandler v. Illinois Central R. Co. 
Railroad owed no duty to install warning devices other than those approved by state regulatory body.

News

Ryan Russell Kemper named to St. Louis Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 list

Thompson Coburn earns 11 national top-tier rankings in U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ survey

Thompson Coburn earns corporate counsel recommendations five years running in national report

Congratulations to our 15 St. Louis ‘Lawyers of the Year’

Thompson Coburn adds associates across four offices

Two partners named ‘2014 BTI Client Service All-Stars’

Thompson Coburn earns six national top-tier rankings in U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ survey

St. Louis Bar Foundation honors Paul Brown for program targeting ‘problem properties’

Thompson Coburn again earns national top-tier rankings in U.S. News ‘Best Law Firms’ survey

19 Thompson Coburn partners named 2013 St. Louis Lawyers of the Year

102 Thompson Coburn attorneys featured in 2013 Best Lawyers list

Thompson Coburn Earns First Tier Rankings in U.S. News – Best Lawyers “Best Law Firms” Rankings

Senior Counsel
Southern Illinois
618 236 3406

Tom defends major railroads and other corporations facing personal injury suits, primarily in the areas of FELA, product liability and medical malpractice.

Tom defends major railroads and other corporations facing personal injury s...

Tom Alvey, Jr.
Counsel
Southern Illinois
618 236 3469

Crystal practices in the firm's railroad litigation area.

Crystal practices in the firm's railroad litigation area.

Crystal Campbell
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6142

David is a lead trial lawyer with a track record of success across a diverse array of claims, including various types of construction and real estate disputes, business t...

David is a lead trial lawyer with a track record of success across a divers...

David Dick
Associate
Southern Illinois
618 236 3424

Misty represents companies facing litigation in high-risk venues across southern Illinois.

Misty represents companies facing litigation in high-risk venues across sou...

Misty Edwards
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6433

Cliff is a nationally recognized labor and employment attorney who advises executives and HR leaders on all aspects of employment litigation and labor disputes.

Cliff is a nationally recognized labor and employment attorney who advises ...

Cliff Godiner
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6040

Allan’s practice includes preparation and trial work in product liability, asbestos, carpal tunnel syndrome, and legal and medical malpractice.

Allan’s practice includes preparation and trial work in product liability, ...

Allan Goodloe
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6046

Bill defends railroads facing personal injury litigation in high-risk venues across the Midwest.

Bill defends railroads facing personal injury litigation in high-risk venue...

Bill Hakes
Partner
Southern Illinois
618 236 3419

Harlan represents national railroads involved in lawsuits in state and federal courts in Illinois and Missouri, primarily in the areas of FELA, grade crossing accidents a...

Harlan represents national railroads involved in lawsuits in state and fede...

Harlan Harla
Associate
St. Louis
314 552 6384

Ben primarily represents clients in complex tort, environmental, and personal injury matters.

Ben primarily represents clients in complex tort, environmental, and person...

Ben Harner
Associate
Southern Illinois
618 236 3413

Heath represents clients in the Firm's railroad and toxic tort litigation areas in high-risk jurisdictions in Southern Illinois and Missouri.

Heath represents clients in the Firm's railroad and toxic tort litigation a...

Heath Hooks
Partner
Southern Illinois
618 236 3418

As one of the most experienced trial attorneys in Missouri and Illinois, Tom has achieved significant results for clients facing major litigation in state and federal cou...

As one of the most experienced trial attorneys in Missouri and Illinois, To...

Tom Jones
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6066

Nick is a highly experienced trial lawyer in all types of civil litigation, including the defense of railroad, product liability and other personal injury claims, and the...

Nick is a highly experienced trial lawyer in all types of civil litigation,...

Nick Lamb
Associate
Southern Illinois
618 236 3425

Erik practices in the Litigation Group, with an emphasis on products liability, toxic torts, and railroad litigation.

Erik practices in the Litigation Group, with an emphasis on products liabil...

Erik Lewis
Partner
Southern Illinois
618 236 3467

Kevin is a litigation partner focusing in the areas of asbestos, toxic tort, personal injury, products liability, and railroad litigation.

Kevin is a litigation partner focusing in the areas of asbestos, toxic tort...

Kevin McGinley
Senior Counsel
St. Louis
314 552 6092

Michael's practice includes substantial experience in tort and commercial litigation in state and federal courts.

Michael's practice includes substantial experience in tort and commercial l...

Michael O'Keefe
Partner
Southern Illinois
618 236 3415

Kurt is experienced in the defense of personal injury and property damage litigation including FELA, trucking, product liability, class action and mass tort litigation.

Kurt is experienced in the defense of personal injury and property damage l...

Kurt Reitz
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6087

Retired Judge Booker Shaw brings clients valuable insight and perspective gained from his more than 25 years on the bench.

Retired Judge Booker Shaw brings clients valuable insight and perspective g...

Booker Shaw
Associate
St. Louis
314 552 6373

Paul represents clients in complex commercial disputes across a variety of industries.

Paul represents clients in complex commercial disputes across a variety of ...

Paul Stoehr
Partner
St. Louis
314 552 6109

Peter is a nationally recognized environmental attorney who helps companies respond to major environmental incidents, navigate regulatory actions, and successfully resolv...

Peter is a nationally recognized environmental attorney who helps companies...

Peter Strassner
Senior Counsel
St. Louis
314 552 6110

Dave represents railroads and major manufacturers in environmental and occupational exposure litigation throughout the Midwest and across the country.

Dave represents railroads and major manufacturers in environmental and occu...

Dave Stratmann
Partner
Southern Illinois
618 236 3411

For nearly 20 years, Erick has defended product liability, toxic tort, and railroad injury cases in some of the most difficult jurisdictions in the country.

For nearly 20 years, Erick has defended product liability, toxic tort, and ...

Erick VanDorn
Associate
Southern Illinois
618 236 3429

Mike practices in the Litigation Group, with an emphasis on products liability, toxic torts, and railroad litigation.

Mike practices in the Litigation Group, with an emphasis on products liabil...

Mike Vogel
Associate
Southern Illinois
618 236 3430

Ryan practices in the firm's railroad and toxic tort litigation areas.

Ryan practices in the firm's railroad and toxic tort litigation areas.

Ryan Webb