US District Judge Affirms Earlier $2.2 million Jury Verdict in Hayes+Associates-assisted Case of Injured Railway Conductor, Grants Additional $1 million in Post-Trial Decision

Montana, July 2015: Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. (BSNF) conductor Zachary Wooten suffered a complex wrist injury resulting from a malfunctioning train door and subsequent fall. After filing a personal injury report, Wooten was unlawfully terminated by BNSF on September 29, 2015 in retaliation for his report of the on-the-job injury.

After BNSF refused to reinstate Wooten when ordered to do so by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Wooten brought action against BNSF alleging violations of the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), the Locomotive Inspection Act (LIA), and the Federal Rail Safety Act (FRSA). The OSHA damages amounted to approximately $65,000.

On November 5, 2018, after an eleven-day trial, the jury found that BNSF had not violated the LIA but had violated FELA and FRSA.  Analysis by Hayes+Associates Matt Soicher, PhD, and testimony delivered by H+A CEO Wilson C. “Toby” Hayes, PhD, contributed to the jury verdict:  Lost back wages and benefits, lost future wages and benefits, mental and emotional humiliation or pain and anguish and punitive damages, for a total award of  $2,171,156.

Read the full story of Hayes+Associates involvement in the Wooten v. BNSF case here: https://www.hayesassoc.com/news-full/2018/11/20/8xocy7y56gf0mt647k0vbl4gkyjutc

Shortly after trial, both parties filed post-trial motions, Wooten for attorney’s fees and expenses, and BNSF for a new trial. BNSF motions were denied in their entirety and Wooten’s motions were granted in part and denied in part. 

The federal judge in the post-trial hearing confirmed Wooten’s punitive damage request and BNSF was ordered to award Wooten an additional $1,038,854., for a total award of 3.2 million, the largest FRSA verdict in US History.

Wooten was represented through trial and post-trial proceedings by William G. Jungbauer, John D. Magnuson, and Christopher W. Bowman, all of YAEGER & JUNGBAUER BARRISTERS, PLC. (St. Paul, MN, yjblaw.com). YJB is a nationally recognized leader in railroad law, specializing in whistleblower discrimination cases. The three attorneys involved in Wooten v. BNSF were recognized by peer review in the 2019 Edition of Best Lawyers.

Yaeger & Jungbauer point out on their website that “the $65,000 OSHA judgment, which then became a $2.17 million jury verdict, has now increased to more than $3.2 million that BNSF owes for its unlawful conduct…and the verdict represents the largest verdict under the strengthened FRSA whistleblower protections to date.”

This story may not be over.  BNSF has retained Jones Day, one of the largest law firms worldwide, to challenge both the jury’s verdict and the district court’s decision before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Hayes+Associates, Inc. (http://www.hayesassoc.com) is an expert witness and consulting firm, based in Corvallis, OR.  The company brings more than 75 years of collective experience in academic research, university teaching and forensic testimony to practice areas that include vehicle collisions, premises safety, slips and falls, products liability, worker safety, sports and recreation, patent litigation and criminal matters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hayes+Associates Contributed to Settlement in 13-Year-Long Seat Belt Fatality Case Involving a Far-Reaching US Supreme Court Decision

1993 Mazda MPV van, Northbound SR-89 & 290 N Center, Orderville, UT (August 14, 2002)

1993 Mazda MPV van, Northbound SR-89 & 290 N Center, Orderville, UT (August 14, 2002)

Utah, 2002: A Jeep Wrangler towed by a motor home came loose and struck an oncoming 1993 Mazda MPV minivan head on.  Thanh Williamson, 32, seated in the rear center seat of the minivan, died as a result of abdominal injuries and internal bleeding sustained from the lap seat belt she wore.  Her husband and daughter, Ondi and Alexa Williamson, in the driver’s seat and rear side seat, wore lap-shoulder belts and survived the collision. Alexa, seated next to her mother, was seven.

In 2004, after reaching a settlement with the driver of the motor home, the Williamson family filed suit in California’s Orange County Superior Court accusing Mazda of negligence, product liability, and wrongful death. The suit claimed the automaker should have installed a lap-shoulder belt in Mrs. Williamson’s seat to restrain her upper torso in a frontal collision. Lawyers for the Plaintiff were David R. Lira, Thomas Girardi (LA, www.girardikeese.com), and Martin N. Buchanan (San Diego,  www.martinbuchanan.com).

The state trial court dismissed the action on the ground that it was preempted under the 1989 version of the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 (FMVSS 208), which permitted auto manufacturers to choose whether to install lap belts OR lap-shoulder belts on rear inner seats such as the one Thanh Williamson had been using.  

In 2008, Williamson’s attorneys brought the case to the California Court of Appeal, which affirmed the Orange County Superior Court ruling, holding that the suit, if successful, would deprive auto manufacturers of the FMVSS 208 choice of which type of seat belt to install in rear inner seats.

In 2010, when the California Supreme Court declined to review the Court of Appeal decision, Williamson’s attorneys took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. In a friend-of-the-court brief, the Office of the Solicitor General said Williamson should be allowed to sue Mazda. During oral arguments, attorney William Jay, assistant to the Solicitor General, said Mazda complied with the federal minimum standard by installing a lap seat belt, but argued the automaker should not be exempted from the consequences of its seat belt choice under state common law.

In 2011, after hearing all arguments, on February 23, 2011 the US Supreme Court issued a decision unanimously reversing the suit’s dismissal, asserting the Williamson family could sue Mazda. The court determined that Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 208 does not preempt a state lawsuit that alleges a defective seat belt design.

In 2013, the case went back to California and then, at Mazda’s request, to Utah’s 6th District Court.  Utah attorney Richard D. Burbidge (www.burbidgemitchell.com) joined the Plaintiff’s representation and spent years preparing the case for trial.

In 2014, as the Williamson’s suit against Mazda went forward, Hayes+Associates, Inc, was retained on behalf of the family to provide biomechanical analysis of the incident and injury.  Based on that analysis, H+A CEO Wilson C. “Toby” Hayes, PhD, demonstrated at a 2017 hearing challenging the admissibility of his testimony, that the severe abdominal injuries that led to Thanh Williamson’s death resulted directly from concentrated restraint forces and the associated jack-knifing of her body over the lap belt. Analysis by former Senior Associate, Mark S. Erickson, now of Erickson Forensic (https://ericksonforensic.com/), and testimony by Dr. Hayes, concluded that if Thanh’s seat had been equipped with a lap-shoulder seat belt, her fatal abdominal injury would not have occurred.   Shortly after the hearing, the Court ruled that Dr. Hayes’ testimony was admissible and could be used at trial.

Shortly thereafter, a confidential settlement was reached before the case went to trial.

In November of 2017, Lira, Girardi, Buchanan and Burbidge were named 2017 California Consumer Attorneys of the Year in recognition of their successful 13-year pursuit of the landmark change in seat belt safety requirements.

Far-Reaching Effects of Williamson v. Mazda

In a 2018 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, Ondi Williamson said, “When a loved one passes away, you want a legacy.  This is Thanh’s legacy, the Supreme Court decision.  A lot of people are protected because of our loss.”

(https://www.sltrib.com/news/2018/01/15/how-a-utah-womans-car-crash-death-led-to-a-precedent-setting-us-supreme-court-decision-on-seat-belts-and-continuing-pain-for-her-family/ )

Hayes describes Williamson v. Mazda as “a decision of potentially sweeping import.” The case was instrumental in rewriting seat belt requirements that had previously allowed auto manufacturers to use dangerous restraint designs under the protection of Federal Standards.

David R. Lira, attorney for the Williamsons, notes that the “decision will likely reverberate in other areas of the law as well…(and)…could become important in a wide variety of other types of products liability cases involving federally regulated products.” (https://www.girardikeese.com/News-Media/Preempting-Preemption-An-Analysis-of-Williamson-v-Mazda-Motor-of-America-Inc.shtml )

Hayes+Associates, Inc. (http://www.hayesassoc.com) is an expert witness and consulting firm based in Corvallis, OR.  The company brings more than 75 years of collective experience in academic research, university teaching and forensic testimony to practice areas that include vehicle collisions, premises safety, slips and falls, products liability, worker safety, sports and recreation, patent litigation and criminal matters.

 

 

 

Hayes+Associates Sponsors JDRF Community One Walk To Help Find a Cure for Type 1 Diabetes

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On Saturday, May 11, over 350 walkers of all ages gathered at the Crystal Lake Sports Field in Corvallis, OR for the 3rd Annual Walk for Type 1 Diabetes (T1D) to raise awareness and research funds to help create a world without type 1 diabetes.

 For the third consecutive year, Hayes+Associates, Inc., was one of the primary local sponsors of the event.  In addition, several H+A staff members were involved in the Community One Walk. Christine Snow, PhD, Professor Emeritus at Oregon State University and current Administrator at H+A, chaired the Walk and H+A Engineering Associates, Kristen Lipscomb and Matt Soicher, both served on the Planning Committee.

 The 5K walk blew past its $60,000 fundraising goal to gather pledges of over $75,000. Since its inception three years ago, the Corvallis Walk for T1D has raised over $225,000 for JDRF.

 JDRF, founded in 1970 by parents of children with type 1 diabetes, is a global organization whose mission is to fund research to cure, prevent, and treat type 1 diabetes, a grave disease that affects millions of people of all ages, worldwide.  To date, the organization has funded more than $2 billion in research.

 “Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that strikes children and adults suddenly,” the JDRF website explains. “It has nothing to do with diet or lifestyle—and it's serious and stressful to manage as it requires daily insulin injections to survive. There is nothing you can do to prevent T1D and there is currently no cure.”  The JDRF tagline is, “Let’s turn type one into type none.”

 Other Corvallis Community One Walk sponsors were: Hellig Misfeldt & Armstrong, PacificSource Health Plans, The Adams & Montgomery Family, Samaritan Health Services, the Hennessy Family, Schupp-Plemmons-Cook Wealth Management Group, Gaia Landscapes, North Point Dental Group, and Live Well Studio.

 If you missed the 2019 Community One Walk and would still like to make a tax deductible donation, you may visit the JDRF website donation page at (https://www2.jdrf.org/site/Donation2?idb=687849806&df_id=19973&19973.donation=form1&FR_ID=7678&mfc_pref=T&PROXY_ID=7678&PROXY_TYPE=21) or call the JDRF Oregon/SW Washington chapter at 503-643-1995.

Hayes+Associates, Inc., analysis demonstrates protective advantages of seat belts in bus rollover

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Using the fundamental laws of physics, a team of biomechanical engineers at Hayes+Associates, Inc. (H+A), concluded that the fatalities and injuries that had resulted from a 2014 commercial bus crash would have been avoided or reduced in severity by the use of seat belts. 

In the early hours of May 21, 2014, an interstate bus traveling westbound on I-10 near Blythe, CA, went off road and rolled one-quarter turn onto its right side, resulting in five deaths and injuries to 30 passengers, including an 11-day old infant.  Most of the injuries were caused by a fall from one side of the bus to the other.

Hayes+Associates was retained by attorney David R. Lira of the Los Angeles firm Girardi I Keese (http://www.girardikeese.com) on behalf of a multi-firm, Plaintiff’s committee of attorneys representing the passengers.

Led by Senior Engineer, Erik D. Power, P.E., with testimony provided by CEO Wilson C. “Toby” Hayes, Ph.D., the H+A team analyzed what caused the injuries and fatalities in the actual crash and what would have happened had lap-shoulder belts been available.  David King, P.E., and his team at MEA Forensic, Inc. (https://meaforensic.com), was retained by the Plaintiffs to analyze the off road motion and rollover of the bus.

The H+A report concluded: “For the fatally injured passengers who died acutely as a consequence of the rollover, the failure on the part of the manufacturer to provide three-point restraints was the direct and proximate cause of their acute and fatal injuries.  Had three-point restraints been in use, these passengers would not have died or sustained serious injuries,”

A recent New York Times article about bus and train passenger safety describes serious crashes as rare but particularly injurious because passengers and their personal items are not secured by seat belts or enclosed storage.

(https://www.nyt.com/2019/04/08/business/amtrak-greyhound-safety-bus-train.html)  When a bus abruptly slows or stops, unrestrained passengers continue to travel at the vehicle’s original velocity, even, at times, to the point of ejection from the bus, resulting in injury and death.

The Times interviewed T. Bella Dinh-Zarr, recently retired from the National Transportation Safety Board,  concerning the 44 people who had died in bus crashes in 2017: “Those 44 people could have been saved.  In some cases, just simply wearing their seat belt would have saved them from being severely injured and then dying from those injuries, or being ejected and killed.” H+A findings in the MCI bus rollover case comport with the New York Times article.

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has long recommended lap-shoulder restraints in commercial and school buses. Despite their effectiveness and strong recommendations from NTSB for their use, seat belts are not mandatory in most buses.  Opponents of seat belts in buses object to the cost of installation and the inability of drivers or companies to enforce their use. 

By using simple physics calculations to analyze complex injuries and even deaths, the H+A team believes it has provided a powerful and generally applicable tool for the analysis and prevention of occupant injuries in bus rollovers that are comparable to the Blythe incident.  That simple physics could accurately reflect what happened to passengers in the real crash provides confidence in the predictions as to how much seat belts would have helped.

It is hoped that a case like the Blythe bus crash will awaken the public to the need for seat belts in commercial and school buses.  “Litigation,” Hayes maintains, “is one approach to effect change in a culture that is sometimes highly resistant to it.”

With contributions by the Hayes+Associates biomechanical analysis, the MCI bus rollover case settled prior to trial for an undisclosed amount.

Hayes+Associates, Inc. (http://www.hayesassoc.com) is an expert witness and consulting firm based in Corvallis, OR.  The company brings more than 75 years of collective experience in academic research, university teaching, and forensic testimony to practice areas that include vehicle collisions, premises safety, slips and falls, products liability, worker safety, sports and recreation, patent litigation and criminal matters.

 

 

 

Hayes+Associates Analysis Plays Key Role in Jury’s Defense Verdict for Low-Speed/Rear-Impact Collision Case

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Biomechanical analysis of a 2014 Low Speed/Rear-Impact collision by a team at Hayes+Associates, Inc., demonstrated that every-day activities routinely subject the head, neck, and low back to greater loading than the forces exerted in an Oregon couple’s collision.

Plaintiffs argued that their alleged injuries were made even worse by their prior medical histories of arthritis and surgical fusions.  They sought $1.4 million in damages.

H+A Senior Associate, Erik D. Power, P.E., and CEO Wilson C. “Toby” Hayes, PhD, first used the fundamental laws of physics to confirm the minor nature of the collision between the involved vehicles, special software to visualize the motions and forces sustained by the two occupants, and a review of medical records and x-rays to show that the conditions claimed by the patients were the consequence of age and arthritis and not the result of the minor collision in question.

The jury found for the defense, indicating that the plaintiffs had not proved their case as a matter of law and had failed to present credible testimony on key elements of their claim. The trial team for the defense was Edward L. Sears for American Family Insurance, Portland, OR, and Ralph Spooner from Spooner & Much, P.C., in Salem.

Hayes+Associates, Inc. (http://www.hayesassoc.com) is an expert witness and consulting firm, based in Corvallis, OR.  The company brings more than 75 years of collective experience in academic research, university teaching, and forensic testimony to practice areas that include vehicle collisions, premises safety, slips and falls, products liability, worker safety, sports and recreation, patent litigation and criminal matters.