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Jury Awards $1.5 Million To Railroad’s Ex-Employee

Aug 14, 2004 | The Virginian-Pilot A Portsmouth jury ordered Norfolk Southern Railway Co. to pay $1.5 million in damages to a Virginia Beach man who says he contracted silicosis while working for the railroad.

However, Circuit Court Judge James A. Cales Jr. did not enter the verdict. Rather, he plans to hear Norfolk Southern motions to set the decision aside or, if not, then reduce the award, at a hearing in October .

The verdict came down Thursday . “I am not just hopeful, but confident it will be set aside,” said J.A. Stalnaker , the attorney who represented the Norfolk-based railroad. “The verdict is contrary to the evidence and to the law.” Silicosis is a disabling lung disease caused by breathing in too much silica dust during a period of years.

Overexposure to silica dust can cause lung scarring that makes breathing difficult, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health . While silicosis is preventable, it is also incurable.

More than 250 Americans die each year with the disease, which has been associated with bronchitis, tuberculosis and, in some studies, with lung cancer. Dale Rogers of Virginia Beach sued Norfolk Southern in September seeking damages for his “pain and suffering” for the “early silicosis” he allegedly contracted during 16 years as a maintenance-of-way employee for the railroad.

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