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Heckman v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company

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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

S-12-0335, Eddie Heckman v. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Company (Appellant)

Box Butte County, Judge Travis O’Gorman

Attorneys: Nichole S. Bogen, Thomas C. Sattler (Wolfe Snowden Hurd Luers & Ahl LLP) (Appellant) --- Andrew W. Snyder (Chaloupka Holyoke Snyder Chaloupka Longoria & Kishiyama PCLLO)---Deborah R. Gilg (U.S. Attorney), Kathryn Keneally (Assistant Attorney General), Robert L. Homan(Assistant U.S. Attorney) (for United States, Department of Justice as Amicus Curiae)

Civil: Personal injury by railroad employee; Federal Employers’ Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. § 51 et seq. (FELA); damages

Proceedings below: A jury returned a verdict in favor of plaintiff in the amount of $290,000 less 50% for plaintiff’s contributory negligence. The court approved the verdict and entered judgment in favor of plaintiff and against defendant in the amount of $145,000. The trial court denied the defendant’s motion for satisfaction and discharge of the judgment. Appellant filed a Petition to Bypass the Court of Appeals which was granted by the Nebraska Supreme Court.

Issues: 1. The district court erred in failing to find satisfaction and discharge of the judgment against BNSF after BNSF paid the district court clerk the amount of the judgment less the Railroad Retirement Act payroll taxes and other agreed upon setoffs. 2. The district court erred in holding that "... no portion of the general verdict shall be attributable to Plaintiff's wage loss claim," and "[n]o part of the judgment will be considered lost wages." (T39 and T51). 3. The district court erred in ordering the parties "...to agree, in writing, supported by consideration, so as not to place BNSF at odds with the statutory requirement to pay the Railroad Retirement Taxes to the IRS as permitted by the rules."(T51).

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