Both of Herbie’s legs were amputated due to the negligence of Metro-North in dragging rail cars out of Stamford Shop by means of a forklift with a 12 foot cable and hook. The forklift came to an abrupt halt when the operator drove the forklift into a stairway landing, but the rail cars continued moving forward. Herbie attempted to unhook the cable, but within seconds his legs were traumatically severed when he was trapped between the moving cars and the forklift cable.
Cahill & Perry claimed Metro-North was negligent for moving rail cars with a forklift and cable in order to avoid the expense of a switching crew or a motorized Rail Car Mover, and for using a forklift that was 2″ too high to clear the known obstruction of a staircase next to the shop track. The Railroad had no rules or written procedures pertaining to the removal of a cable and hook in such a situation. In fact, this was the first time Herbie had performed that task and he was doing so without any instructions or training and without the usual level of manpower the Railroad normally employed when performing such a hazardous operation.
Metro-North denied it was negligent in causing Herbie’s injuries and tried to blame Herbie for not radioing the employee in the head end of the triplet to stop the cars (despite the fact Herbie needed his two hands to remove the hook within a matter of seconds, and had no time to remove the radio from his pocket and radio the employee on the head end in time to stop the train).
A week before trial was set to begin in federal court, the parties engaged in a day long mediation session before retired United States District Judge Robert C. Zampano. In their presentation George Cahill and Charlie used photographs, a model of the accident site, and a day in the life video. The theme of their case was: “Metro-North cut corners to save money, and ended up cutting off Herbie Renert’s legs.” The case settled that day for a lump sum cash payment of $7 million.