On April 6, 2017, William Meszaros (“Bill”), then age 28, was working as a Power Trainee for Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (“SEPTA”) Railroad Division. On that day Bill was a part of a crew working in SEPTA’s Wayne Electric Car Yard in Philadelphia, Pa. Bill and his crew were tasked with loading a 5,644-pound spool of trolley wire into a storage container.
In preparation to move the spool into the storage container, two members of Bill’s crew laid two sections of railroad ties in front of the storage container to compensate for the approximately 6-inch difference in height between the container floor and the ground. The spool of wire was then placed by way of forklift on the railroad ties.
Once the spool of wire was placed on the railroad ties, the forklift was backed up to remove the forks of the forklift from under the reel. At this time, Bill was positioned just inside the storage container doorway as the other crew members began to roll the spool into the storage container doorway. The weight of the spool shifted to the right and pinned and crushed Bill to the wall of the storage container. Bill was ultimately able to free himself, but he sustained catastrophic crush injuries and required emergency medical assistance.
Bill’s injuries included blunt abdominal trauma resulting in a mesenteric tear and serosal tear of the ascending colon, requiring surgical intervention, including exploratory laparotomy, small bowel resection with small bowel anastomosis, and repair of serosal tear of the ascending colon. Bill also suffered a brachial plexus injury (permanent nerve damage) to his right shoulder and now suffers from chronic regional pain syndrome, chronic migraines, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder. Bill is now, at the age of 32, permanently disabled as the nerve damage prevents him from fully using his right arm and his abdominal injuries has resulted in severe and permanent gastrointestinal issues.
Suit was initiated on Bill’s behalf in Pennsylvania State Court under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act by James McEldrew, Esq. of the law firm of McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt. From the outset, SEPTA postured as if it wanted to resolve this matter, however, never made any significant settlement offers. In fact, SEPTA took the position that Bill was exaggerating his injuries and spent a staggering $55,195 to have Bill, his girlfriend, and young child followed and surveilled for three years – in hopes of “catching him” faking.
After a failed mediation attempt it became clear that this case would be heading for a trial. On the eve of trial, SEPTA made a $3 million dollar settlement offer which Bill promptly rejected. During the week-long trial, Bill’s legal team from McEldrew Young Purtell Merritt presented eighteen witnesses, nine of which were medical professionals.
The witnesses included gastroenterologists, Dr. James C. Reynolds and Dr. Albert Harary, who both testified at length to Bill’s permanent and chronic gastrointestinal (“GI”) issues, which range from incontinence and constipation to crippling bowel spasms. Dr. Reynolds, who heads up the University of Pennsylvania’s gastroenterology department and Bill’s current treatment provider, explained that the presentation of Bill’s GI issues changes daily and because of that, Bill is limited in what he can do and eat as there is no way to predict when a bowel spasm will occur and cause Bill to defecate on himself.
The jury also heard testimony from pain and rehabilitation specialists, Dr. Guy Fried and Dr. Steven Rosen. Both doctors explained the nature and extent of Bill’s brachial plexus injury. SEPTA and its orthopedic expert, Dr. Richard Mandel, argued that from an orthopedic standpoint, Bill was fine and could return to work. However, Drs. Fried and Rosen explained to the jury that a brachial plexus injury is not an orthopedic injury – like a broken bone. Instead, the doctors explained that the brachial plexus is a network of nerves in the shoulder that carries movement and signals to the arm and hands and the injury Bill suffered to his brachial plexus when he was struck by the spool of wire permanently damaged those nerves. As a result, Bill will never have full usage of his right arm again and will have to deal with chronic regional pain syndrome for the rest of his life.
Yet, SEPTA maintained its position that from an orthopedic standpoint, Bill was fine. To support its position, SEPTA also presented the testimony of neurologist, Dr. George Dooneief, and several surveillance videos of Bill performing numerous activities. However, the case presented by Bill’s legal team was insurmountable as the jury saw through SEPTA’s farce of a defense and returned a verdict in the amount of $15.56 million – more than five times SEPTA’s pre-trial settlement offer.