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Settlement Against Wyoming Trona Mine for Injured Worker

Dec 16, 2011

A Wyoming worker who lost his leg when he was run over by a railcar at a Wyoming trona mine and soda ash facility has agreed to a confidential settlement with the defendant mining company, his former employer. G. Bryan Ulmer and Tyson E. Logan of The Spence Law Firm, LLC represented the worker and his wife. The Spence Firm had filed the injured worker's claims under the Federal Employer Liability Act (FELA) and the Wyoming Railroad Act (WRA) against the employer mine / railroad company in Wyoming federal district court.

This case alleged numerous railroad liability claims against the company for the dangerous and defective equipment at the rail loadout facility in Green River, Wyoming. Specifically, the complaint alleged that the railcar's cut lever stuck as the employee attempted to uncouple one railcar from another during the loadout process, and the train suddenly lurched on the tracks.

The suit alleged that the employer knew that the equipment and the operation at the rail loadout facility were dangerous, yet did nothing to protect the workers. At some point in time, the railcar puller, a powered system to move railcars in and out of the loading facility, was modified to allow the throttle to be locked into place. The system was dangerous because a lone operator, working near around the railcars being moved in and out of the facility, could not stop the railcar puller in the event of an emergency.

The injured worker suffered a below the knee amputation as a result of the accident, and will use a prosthetic limb for the rest of his life.

The Spence Law Firm has represented a number of Wyoming railroaders and miners in similar industrial accidents against railroad employers. The WRA extends liability against corporations operating a railroad in the State to an employee injured or killed due to negligence "in or about the handling, movement, or operation of any train, engine, or car, on or over the railroad, or by reason of any defect or insufficiency, due to its negligence, in its cars, engines, appliances, machinery, track, roadbed, works, or other equipment." Contributing to the Wyoming workers compensation system does not immunize negligent railroad employers.

Investigation into this incident by the Wyoming State Mine Inspector's Office and MSHA revealed a dangerous system that likely would cause injury to workers at the mine facility. The employer was cited for numerous federal and state safety violations as a result of the incident.

The case was scheduled for jury trial with Judge Nancy Freudenthal in 2012. Details of the settlement are confidential to protect the miner and his family's privacy.

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