West Nile Mosquito Bites Will Cost Union Pacific

     (CN) – A Texas railroad worker who contracted the West Nile virus from mosquitoes after Hurricane Ike is entitled to more than $750,000, an appeals court ruled.
     William Nami had sued the Union Pacific Railroad Co. in 2012, four years after he was diagnosed with the West Nile virus, which developed into encephalitis, a swelling and inflammation of the brain.
     Nami’s daughter Sarah had brought the railroad worker to the hospital after finding him slumped on the couch, sweating and mumbling. He had a fever of 103 degrees.
     Sarah testified that her father used to be strong and alert and is now forgetful and walks with a cane.
     Nami sought damages under the Federal Employers’ Liability Act, claiming that his employer failed to protect him from disease-carrying mosquitoes while he was working on the railroad in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike.
     Though the company issued a bulletin warning about mosquitoes and the West Nile virus, Nami said he had not seen the literature or else he would have worn long sleeves and used bug spray.
     Because he had not, swarms of mosquitoes allegedly attacked Nami several times at the job site in the town of Sweeny, according to the complaint. Nami also said that Union Pacific failed to mow the grass or trim the weeds in the four months that he worked there.
     A jury found Union Pacific 80 percent at fault for Nami’s illnesses, with Nami taking the other 20 percent of the blame. The jury awarded Nami $752,000.
     Union Pacific appealed, arguing that it did not owe Nami the duty to protect him from mosquitoes and that it did not cause Nami to contract the virus.
     The 13th Texas Court of Appeals, based in Corpus Christi and Edinburg, upheld the jury’s verdict on Aug. 14.
     “Nami testified that he reported the condition of his tamper machine – a door that would not shut, malfunctioning air conditioning, holes in the floor and walls – to his supervisor and nothing was done to fix it,” Justice Nelda Rodriguez wrote for the court.
     Mosquitoes were able to nest in the tamper machine and in the unmowed grass and weeds, according to the ruling.
     “Failing to repair Nami’s equipment or mow the grass and weeds were negligent acts by Union Pacific that allowed mosquitoes to swarm and bite Nami,” Rodriguez said.
     The court also rejected Union Pacific’s argument that Nami should have known to protect himself from the mosquitoes.
     “The diseases transmitted to humans by mosquitoes – for example, malaria, St. Louis encephalitis, Eastern and Western Equine encephalitis – are rare, and thus, the likelihood is low that a person in Texas would know someone who has contracted a mosquito-borne illness,” Rodriguez wrote.

%d bloggers like this: