Joseph D Pearson vs. Union Pacific Railroad Company

  • Court: California State, Los Angeles County, Superior Court
  • Case number: 19STCV46029
  • Filed: December 20, 2019
  • Judge: Graciela Freixes | Anne Hwang
  • Case type: (1108) Personal Injury/Property Damage/Wrongful Death

Parties Involved

Verdict Information

  • Verdict date: May 02, 2024
  • Total damages awarded to Plaintiff: $4,381,753
  • Economic Damages: $1,006,753
    • Past economic loss for lost wages: $329,269
    • Future economic loss: $677,484
      • Future wage loss: $129, 513
      • Future medical expenses: $547, 971
  • Non-economic Damages: $3,375,000
    • Past non-economic damages: $1,375,000
    • Future non-economic damages: $2,000,000

About the Case


Joseph D. Pearson, the Plaintiff, brought the present personal injury lawsuit against Union Pacific Railroad Company (UPRC), the Defendant, on December 20, 2019. This action arose under Title 45, Section 51 of the United States Code, known as the Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA). UPRC, a Delaware corporation, had authorization to conduct business in California and other states. The Defendant maintained tracks and facilities in various California counties. During these times, UPRC operated as a common carrier engaged in interstate commerce.

In September 1997, Plaintiff began his employment with Defendant as a trainman in Southern California. On June 26, 2019, while working as a brakeman at the Valla Yard near track 781, Plaintiff’s duties required a safe working environment. He was working as part of a three-man crew, performing switching movements to assemble a train of empty freight cars set to depart from Valla Yard in Santa Fe Springs. During routine procedures, Plaintiff attempted to bleed off the residual air from the freight cars’ pneumatic brakes. While pulling the bleed valve rod on a slowly moving freight car, he lost his balance and fell onto the rock ballast, resulting in a severe shoulder dislocation. However, Defendant violated the Federal Safety Appliance Act by allowing the use of a defective bleed rod. This negligence caused Plaintiff to fall and sustain serious injuries and damages.

Defendant owed Plaintiff several duties, including providing a reasonably safe workplace, proper tools and equipment, necessary assistance, and competent co-workers. Additionally, Defendant bore responsibility for assigning tasks Plaintiff could safely perform and warning him of potential hazards. However, at the specified time and place, Defendant breached these duties. They negligently conducted operations, violated safety statutes, failed to maintain equipment and premises, and assigned the Plaintiff to unsafe tasks.


Due to the negligence and violation of Federal Safety Appliance Act by Defendant, Plaintiff suffered injuries to his health, strength, and activity. He suffered severe left shoulder dislocation, leading to five failed surgeries. The severity of the joint trauma and subsequent bacterial infection in the shoulder caused these complications. He sustained bodily harm, shock, and damage to his nervous system, resulting in ongoing physical, mental, and nervous pain. The Plaintiff alleged that these injuries would cause some permanent disability.

As a direct result of Defendant’s negligence, Plaintiff incurred medical, x-ray, and other related expenses for treatment. Additionally, the Plaintiff’s injuries hindered his ability to pursue his vocation, leading to a loss of earnings and earning capacity.


Joseph D. Pearson requested a trial by jury and sought judgment against the Defendants. He sought compensation for general damages as proven, reimbursement for both past and future medical and related expenses, and compensation for lost earnings and reduced earning capacity, both past and future. Additionally, he requested any other relief the court deemed fair and appropriate, as well as interest on his damages as permitted by law.

Jury Verdict

On May 02, 2024, a twelve-panel California jury unanimously found that Union Pacific Railroad Company had been negligent and such negligence was the cause of the harm suffered by Pearson. The jury awarded  $4,381,753 to Plaintiff in damages. Out of the total amount, $1,006,753 was awarded as economic damages and $3,375,000 as non-economic damages. The further breakdown is as follows:

  1. Economic Damages: $1,006,753
  • Past economic loss for lost wages: $329,269
  • Future economic loss: $677,484
    • Future wage loss: $129, 513
    • Future medical expenses: $547, 971

2. Non-economic Damages: $3,375,000

  • Past non-economic damages: $1,375,000
  • Future non-economic damages: $2,000,000

Additionally, the jury found that Pearson had been negligent to a certain degree too, which had contributed to his harm. Consequently, the jury attributed 90% of the responsibility for the harm to Defendant Union Pacific Railroad Company and 10% of responsibility to Plaintiff Joseph D. Pearson.

Court Documents:

Available upon request