Taft Appellate Group Wins Reversal of $3.14 Million Verdict for Union Pacific

Taft partners J. Timothy Eaton and Jonathan B. Amarilio successfully argued for the reversal of a $3.14 million verdict against Taft client Union Pacific.

The case concerned a claim brought against Union Pacific and one of its supervisors by a mechanical department employee after he was allegedly forced to leave the railroad due to physical harassment by his supervisor.

The plaintiff, John McCarthy, brought claims for violations of the Federal Employers Liability Act. McCarthy alleged he became a target of physical harassment by his former supervisor after he was injured in a motor vehicle crash and suffered injuries to his neck and back. He claimed the harassment caused further pain and injury, and he alleged Union Pacific took no action to prevent or stop the conduct. He also alleged that Union Pacific failed to have an effective system in place to protect employees from abusive co-workers. McCarthy claimed he then had to leave his position on medical leave.

A jury in St. Clair County, Ill. awarded McCarthy $3.14 million in damages against Union Pacific. Union Pacific appealed the decision to the Illinois Appellate Court. On April 28, 2022, the Illinois Appellate Court reversed the jury’s verdict and remanded the case for a new trial, finding that the closing argument delivered by McCarthy’s counsel was so inflammatory and improper that it denied the defendants a fair trial and thus required a new trial. The appellate court also found that there was no evidence supporting McCarthy’s claim that Union Pacific failed to have an effective system in place to protect its employees from abusive coworkers, that any part of the verdict based on such a claim was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and that upon retrial McCarthy may be precluded from again raising that claim.

Eaton and Amarilio serve as co-chairs of Taft’s firm-wide Appellate practice. Eaton has a distinguished career in commercial and appellate litigation, as well as arbitration, and has been involved in a number of high-profile cases. He has tried cases in both state and federal courts and before arbitration panels for over 40 years.

Amarilio represents individuals, businesses, and state and local governments before state and federal appellate courts. He is especially experienced representing clients in the Illinois Appellate Court, the Illinois Supreme Court, and the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit.

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