409 F.2d 145 (D.C. Cir. 1969), 21970, Taylor v. Washington Terminal Co.

Docket Nº:21970.
Citation:409 F.2d 145
Party Name:Alonzo Wayne TAYLOR, Appellant, v. The WASHINGTON TERMINAL COMPANY, Appellee.
Case Date:February 20, 1969
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit
 
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Page 145

409 F.2d 145 (D.C. Cir. 1969)

Alonzo Wayne TAYLOR, Appellant,

v.

The WASHINGTON TERMINAL COMPANY, Appellee.

No. 21970.

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit.

February 20, 1969

Argued Dec. 18, 1968.

Page 146

Mr. James R. Scullen, Washington, D.C., for appellant.

Mr. Stephen A. Trimble, Washington, D.C., with whom Mr. Thomas A. Flannery, Washington, D.C., was on the brief, for appellee.

Before BAZELON, Chief Judge, and WRIGHT and ROBINSON, Circuit judges.

J. SKELLY WRIGHT, Circuit Judge:

Appellant Taylor sued appellee railroad under the Federal Employers' Liability Act 1 for personal injury resulting from appellee's alleged negligence. A jury returned a verdict of $80, 000 for appellant. The railroad moved for a new trial on the ground that the verdict was excessive, 2 and the District Court granted the motion, with the proviso that it should be denied if appellant made a remittitur of $60, 000. Appellant refused to make the remittitur, and the case proceeded to a second trial. Again a verdict was returned for appellant, though this time only $25, 000 in damages was awarded. On appeal Taylor argues that the trial judge abused his discretion in granting the remittitur. 3 We set aside the District Court's order of a new trial and order reinstatement of the original verdict for appellant.

I

Appellant Taylor is a fireman employed by appellee, a railroad company which functions primarily as a switching terminal. On July 28, 1963, in the course of his duties, Taylor alighted from a diesel engine which he was inspecting, and after taking a few steps tripped over an electric cable which was lying on the walkway between the tracks. As he fell he struck his arm against a steel water plug. The evidence established to the satisfaction of the jury what is not in dispute here-- that the railroad was negligent in allowing the cable to be where it was.

Appellant was taken to a hospital, his arm was placed in a cast, and he was released. He experienced persistent pain

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in his wrist, and upon the recommendation of two doctors underwent an operation some months later in which his wrist was fused into an immovable joint. 4 Even after the operation, pain and swelling persisted in the wrist, so that he could perform only light duty in his job for some months. During this period he consistently took asprin for relief of the pain.

In August 1965, more than two years after the accident and more than a year after the operation on his wrist, Taylor complained of pains in his stomach. Within a few days he was admitted to the hospital, where he was determined to have a duodenal ulcer. He was hospitalized again in September when the ulcer began to bleed, and in November he underwent an operation in which 75 per cent of his stomach was removed.

After the operation he returned to work and was still working at the time of the first trial in 1967. He experienced intermittent stomach pains, nausea and difficulty in swallowing as well as continuing though not constant pain in his wrist. Appellant showed special damages of something over $10, 000 in wages lost and medical expenses, about half of which were attributable to the wrist injury and about half to the ulcer.

A major issue litigated at trial was the causal relationship between the original injury to appellant's wrist, with its consequent pain, corrective surgery and medication, and the development of his ulcer. The medical testimony on this question was divided. The railroad doctor who had treated appellant testified that no causal link could be established. A second doctor, who had done research in the field of gastric disorders, testified that in the present state of medical knowledge the cause of a particular ulcer could not be determined with certainty. A third doctor was satisfied that the steady ingestion of salicylates to relieve the pain of the wrist injury, coupled with the stress brought about by that injury, had caused appellant's ulcer. He gained some support from the second doctor who, while unable to locate a cause of the ulcer, testified that his research had shown aspirin and related medications to accompany the worsening of ulcers.

II

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