Attorney Paula Jossart fought long and hard last year to hold BNSF’s feet to the fire for its behavior in trying to cover up what really happened to her client, Scott Kowalewski, on a fateful morning in January 2014. That fight resulted in BNSF being sanctioned $5.8 million by Hennepin County Judge Amy Dawson for abusing the process by destroying evidence, making up documentation, paying witnesses and failing to produce evidence such as the video showing just how badly Kowalewski was hurt. The $5.8 million will be added to the $15.3 amount Jossart received during a jury trial on behalf of Kowalewski in February.
In January 2014, Kowalewski was working for the BNSF at its Minneapolis, Minnesota, yard when he and his co-worker were exposed to a very strong-smelling and overwhelming odor. The two men made their way back to the locomotive, but as even Mr. Kowalewski’s boss admitted, Mr. Kowalewski was changed forever.
Despite being taken by ambulance from the scene, the BNSF immediately represented to the Federal Railroad Administration (the governmental agency which oversees railroads) that it was a “false alarm.” Thereafter, Mr. Kowalewski and his doctors were never told that he was potentially exposed to hydrocarbons/well-head casing oil from 11 cars that were being thrown down a hill and crashing into each other 37 feet away from him.
As a result of the exposure, Mr. Kowalewski suffered permanent and progressive neurological damage that will eventually take away his ability to move, talk and live.
During the litigation process, Jossart had to take the BNSF to court on at least 5 separate occasions to compel the railroad to produce certain evidence. Despite being ordered to produce certain documentation and the subject cars, the BNSF repeatedly failed to comply with the judge’s orders.
The discovery sanction is believed to be one of the largest in Minnesota and against the BNSF.
Featured in the Star Tribune, July 18, 2018: Hennepin County judge fines BNSF $4.6M for misconduct during injury lawsuit
Jossart Law has represented clients in personal injury, whistleblower and FELA cases in Minnesota and states across the country, including Arizona, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington and Wisconsin. She is a fighter with years of courtroom experience. No case is too big or too small.