On Tuesday, September 4, 2018, the Western District of the Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed and upheld a nearly $4 million jury verdict secured by MTSE lawyers on behalf of Thomas and Dana Tubbs against BNSF Railway.
The lawsuit against BNSF stemmed from the 2011 flood of the Missouri river that inundated much of the Midwest that summer. The Tubbses owned farmland adjoining BNSF’s railroad. They alleged that BNSF failed to provide adequate drainage for its embankment, which BNSF had repeatedly raised over the past 100 years without adding any additional drainage. That turned the embankment into a large dam. Without enough drainage through the embankment, flooding threatened the stability of the embankment to the point where failure was inevitable. In 2011, the embankment failed and the Tubbses land sustained massive damage.
The case took an unusual path, going from Holt County, Missouri, to the Surface Transportation Board in Washington, D.C., to the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis, and finally back to Holt County, Missouri, where a jury found BNSF responsible for $2,598,000 in actual damages and $1,231,000 in punitive damages. Punitive damages are awarded when a plaintiff successfully shows that a defendant acted with reckless indifference to, or conscious disregard for, the rights of others.
The Missouri Court of Appeals affirmed the jury verdict, finding that BNSF had failed to comply with a standard of care set forth in the Federal Railroad Safety Act and that the jury’s verdict for punitive damages should stand.
The case is styled Thomas Tubbs, et al., v. BNSF Railway Company, Inc., WD 80749 and can be read in full here.