A federal jury in Tacoma awarded $6 million Friday afternoon to Robert Shannon, a railroad worker from Ellensburg whose suffered severe head injuries when a slow moving rail car struck him.
Shannon, then 47, was coupling grain cars in a Sunnyside railyard after dusk, when he stepped away from the track, then was hit by a train car traveling downhill Dec. 6, 2010, said his attorney, Fred Bremseth. At first Shannon was diagnosed with a broken elbow and mild concussion, but his injuries worsened to the point he had difficulty speaking and couldn’t walk, said Bremeth’s investigator, John Hiatt. Nobody knows for sure why the railcar went loose, but a hand brake apparently failed, Bremseth said. U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Leighton ruled the Central Washington Railroad liable, leaving the jury to set a dollar figure, Bremseth said.
The railroad’s insurer, Zurich, will pay the award rather than appeal the ruling, both sides said. “The concern here is for Mr. Shannon and his family. Our thoughts are with Mr. Shannon,” said Brig Temple, president of the railroad, which moves fruit and other goods within Yakima Valley.