Larry M.’s train was stopped by a red light in March of 2004. As the conductor, it was his job to check the track ahead. As he manually shifted a lever to ensure that the track was switching properly, the handle he was pushing on snapped. He hit the ground, fast and hard, and knew immediately that he had re-triggered an old vertebrae injury. After negotiating with Burlington Northern Railroad on his own for a while, Larry decided he needed legal counsel. He forewent the usual practice of hiring a union lawyer and contacted Burke & Thomas.
“Right off the get-go after my injury, I knew I was finished at the railroad. It’s a permanent injury, and there are certain things I couldn’t do anymore – specifically, I couldn’t raise weight over my head, which was important to my work as a conductor. I started to discuss the matter of ending my career with the railroad. Since the appliance broke – it wasn’t misused by me, it just simply broke – the liability in my case was pretty clear-cut. This was not a hard case. But I had dealt with the railroad before. They make it sound like you don’t need a lawyer, that we could work this out and come to a settlement. In good faith, I listened to their offers. But I knew in the back of my mind that they were not going to offer up anything close to what the threat of a lawsuit might produce. I knew I would probably ultimately need the services of an attorney.
As union workers, we are always advised to use the union’s designated law counsel, but for me the most important thing was to have representation I was personally comfortable with. I knew John Burke personally, and I had a lot of trust in him. So I bucked the tradition. I was chastised for it; when it became known that I had chosen Burke & Thomas to represent me, I got calls from union lawyers asking how I could be so ungrateful, how I could betray them. But I didn’t have any qualms at all about hiring Burke & Thomas.
I was very impressed by how the firm handled my case. They were terrific. I knew they didn’t have a lot of experience with Federal Employers Liability Act (FELA), but I knew they could figure it out, and they did. My criteria for choosing a law firm was really how comfortable I felt with them, and I couldn’t have felt more comfortable than I did with Burke & Thomas. They have a sense of compassion and caring. They treat their clients very well.
Burke & Thomas afforded me the attention I thought my case deserved, and we ended up settling without going to court in late November of 2005. As the litigator I would have liked to move faster, but Burke & Thomas got through my case as fast as anyone could expect – I know how the process works, and railroad cases take a long time. The fact that I opted for them when normally railroad workers are represented by their own kin, so to speak, goes to show how well they treat their clients. My belief is that I couldn’t have gotten a better deal than I did with Burke & Thomas.”