Humiliated railway worker sues for personal injury, slander

David Yates Aug. 27, 2007, 9:43am

John Sloan Jr.

Railroad worker Michael Scott Smith says he received a back injury while on the job for Kansas City Southern, but was told by his boss that his injury claim was bogus. Now Smith is suing his employer not only for the personal injury, but also for the slanderous comments made in front of his co-workers.

Smith filed the suit against his supervisor Gary Adcock and KCS Railway in Jefferson County District Court on Aug. 23.

Smith claims he injured his back while using "a bar to open the door of a rail car." Then when he reported his injury, Smith further claims his supervisor scoffed and scorned him, purposely humiliating him in front of his fellow railway workers, which spoiled his work relationships.

Armed with the Federal Employer Liability Act, Smith is suing KCS Railway for keeping an "old" and "poorly maintained" ballast car with "hard to open" doors in service and Adcock for slander.

According to the plaintiff's original petition, on June 22 while working as a tamper operator, Smith was instructed to unload ballast out of a rail car. While using a bar to open the rail-car door to release the ballast, Smith suffered a back injury.

"He felt a sudden, sharp pain in his lower back, which extended down his right leg," the plaintiff's original petition states.

"(Smith) was still unable to open the door of the rail car," the suit said. "Plaintiff would show that the ballast car was old and poorly maintained and that the doors to dump the ballast were hard to open."

The suit says Smith was diagnosed with lumbar strain with sciatica, right sacroiliac joint strain/sprain and disc herniation.

"As a result of the defendant's negligence and… FELA violation, Smith suffered bodily injuries to his back, spine, and the surrounding soft tissues, ligaments, tendons, muscles and nerves," the suit said. "The injuries are permanent in nature, and…will profoundly and forever alter (Smith's) ability to function and work.

When Smith reported his injury to Adcock, the suit alleges that Adcock called Smith a "liar" and said that "his injury was bogus."

"This was done in front of several of (Smith's) co-workers, injuring his relationships with (them)…as well as damaging his personal and professional reputation," the petition states.

The suit goes on to say Adcock's statements were made "maliciously," consciously disregarding Smith's rights.

"Mr. Adcock's statements were made with the purpose and intent of injuring plaintiff. Defendant's conduct was extreme and outrageous and proximately caused plaintiff severe emotional distress. Plaintiff suffered damages for which Plaintiff herein sues," the petition states.

The suit lists the following acts of alleged negligence committed by the KCS Railway:

Violating the Federal Employers' Liability Act;
- Failing to properly maintain the railroad car on which the Plaintiff was injured;
- Failing to provide the plaintiff with a reasonably safe place in which to work;
- Failing to provide the Plaintiff with adequate assistance to perform his assigned duties;
- Failing to warn the plaintiff of the dangers and hazards of the duties he was required to perform;
- Negligently requiring the plaintiff to perform his assigned duties under unsafe conditions;
- Failing to provide the plaintiff with safe and adequate tools and equipment to perform his assigned duties;
- And in otherwise failing to use due care and caution under the circumstances.

Smith is suing for loss of earning capacity, emotional distress, medical expenses and physical pain, plus exemplary damages.

He is represented by attorney John D. Sloan Jr. of the Sloan, Bagley, Hatcher & Perry Law Firm in Longview.

Judge Donald Floyd, 172nd Judicial District, has been assigned to the case.

Case No. E179-872

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