Justice achieved for railroad worker who lost his leg in a catastrophic work injury
St. Louis, MO. – June 21, 2023 – The law firm of Groves Powers announced on Wednesday that a jury entered a verdict of $25,000,000.00 for plaintiff John Helms against the Dakota, Minnesota & Eastern Railroad, a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Lead attorney Steven Groves and attorney Stephanie Black from St. Louis law firm Groves | Powers LLC served as counsel alongside attorneys Ben Crane and Stephen Blecha from law firm Coplan + Crane in Chicago, Illinois. The verdict represents a victory for a railroad worker who suffered a catastrophic loss due to an extremely hazardous—and previously banned—railroad practice.
“What happened never should have happened,” Groves said. “The practice of getting on and off moving trains was banned in 2005 because it was inherently dangerous. Then [the railroad company] brought it back, not for safety, but because they wanted the trains to move just a little bit faster. Unfortunately, when they did that, they put people like John Helms at risk of getting dismembered, and they knew it.”
On Sept. 27, 2018, brakeman/switchman John Helms was working at the Canadian Pacific rail yard in Savannah, Illinois, when his right foot was crushed and his right shoulder was seriously injured while he attempted to board a moving train. Doctors were unable to correct the damage to his foot and ultimately amputated his leg below the knee.
The railroad company argued that Mr. Helms was 100% to blame for his injuries because workers are not allowed to board moving trains that are traveling faster than 4 mph; the train Helms attempted to board was going approximately 8 or 9 mph.
“Our biggest challenge was that the train was going too fast, but [the railroad company] brought back a banned practice that they knew was unsafe,” Crane said. “We didn’t have a choice but to try the case; the railroad didn’t give us a decision to make.”
The jury returned a verdict in favor of Mr. Helms in just two hours. The jury did find that the plaintiff was 25 percent responsible for his injury, reducing his $25 million award to $18,750,000.00.
“John is just a wonderful human being,” Groves said. “He’s a really good guy and he was a good employee; he was trying to do what the company wanted him to do. Then, when he got hurt, they tried to say it’s all on him. They came up with a rule on paper that they don’t enforce in the real world. Now he has to live with that injury for the rest of his life. This verdict gives him some peace of mind. It tells John this wasn’t his fault.”
About Coplan + Crane
Coplan + Crane handles a variety of cases involving negligence that result in personal injury and wrongful death, including medical malpractice and motor vehicle accidents. The firm is located in Oak Park and serves clients in Chicago, Rockford, and throughout Illinois.
About Groves | Powers LLC
Groves | Powers LLC handles a range of personal injury cases, such as railroad accidents, cases related to the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), and much more. The firm is located in St. Louis, Missouri, and serves clients throughout the state.