Power, Brugess and Benhamou Net $11.1M Settlement

Man suffered spinal injury after crash on expressway

This article appeared in the April 11, 2018 edition of the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

A man who sustained a spinal injury in a van collision with a semi-trailer has settled for $11.1 million with the owner of the van, in which he was a passenger.

Jacob Eitel sued his employer Wisconsin Central Ltd. and transportation company Renzenberger Inc. alleging the van driver fell asleep on the Kennedy Expressway while transporting railroad employees and crashed into a trailer in May 2014.

The defendants agreed to settle the case Monday – one week before a scheduled Daley Center trial, according to Eitel’s attorney, John M. Power of Cogan & Power P.C. The case was mediated before former Cook County circuit judge Thomas L. Hogan.

The Federal Employers’ Liability Act action was filed in August 2015.

On April 30, 2014, Eitel, a locomotive engineer working for Wisconsin Central, was operating a train headed to Wisconsin from Gary, Ind., when he had to stop short of the destination in Illinois because his shift was over.

A Renzenberger driver then picked him and the train conductor up, then drove back toward Gary. While on the Kennedy in “stop and go” traffic, the driver fell asleep at the wheel and rear-ended the trailer.

Eitel, 42, sustained a cervical spine injury which required a fusion at the fifth and sixth cervical vertebrae.

Subsequently, an unrelated pocket of fluid in his spine started causing him pain and a shunt had to be placed in the area of the syrinx to relieve pressure.

He was ultimately diagnosed with partial motor and sensory problems in his arms and legs as well as post-traumatic syrinx.

Power said there was a dispute as to whether the impact speed was less than 5 mph or closer to 15 to 20 mph.

To recover damages under FELA, a plaintiff railroad employee acting in the scope of his employment must prove his employer was negligent and that the injury was at least in part a result of the employer’s negligence.

Defense attorneys argued the incident was a low-impact crash and Eitel sustained either no or minor injuries.

They contended if there was an injury, it was corrected with the spinal fusion operation and Eitel should have returned to work after a year. They contested whether both spinal surgeries were related to the crash, Power said.

Power said the settlement is a great relief” for his client, who now has the financial compensation to deal with his condition.

Eitel was also represented by George Brugess and Hadas Benhamou of Cogan & Power P.C.

Wisconsin Central Ltd. and Renzenberger Inc. were represented by Raymond H. Groble III and Sean C. Gingrich of Daley Mohan Groble P.C. and Dominick W. Savaiano and Paul Bozych of Nielsen, Zehe & Antas P.C. They did not respond for comment as of press time.

The case is Jacob Eitel v. Wisconsin Central Ltd., et al. 15 L 8248. jreiland@lawbulletinmedia.com

BY JORDYN REILAND Law Bulletin staff writer

Chicago Daily Law Bulletin (view the Chicago Daily Law Bulletin article)
Volume 164, No. 71

Copyright © 2018 Law Bulletin Media. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Law Bulletin Media.