Richard Sikes

Practice Groups:

Railroad Litigation

Office Locations:

Chicago, IL

Phone: 312.853.8700

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Education

  • Juris Doctor, DePaul University College of Law, 1980
  • Bachelor of Business Administration, Marquette University, 1976

Year Joined Firm

2017

 

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Heyl Royster

 

Attorneys

Richard Sikes (Of Counsel)

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Rich is an experienced trial and appellate attorney who represents railroads and other transportation-industry clients, defends state actors against civil rights claims, and also serves as lead trial counsel in other civil and commercial litigation.

Rich has primarily represented railroads in serious liability claims such as multi-million dollar property damage cases, railroad trespasser and grade-crossing injuries and fatalities, and injury claims brought by railroad employees under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act (FELA). He has participated in cost-recovery actions for damage caused by others to railroad property in derailments, maritime collisions with bridges, and other large-loss incidents. Rich has also defended liability claims against other transportation-industry organizations such as railroad tank car users. In addition, Rich has broad experience that includes: defending municipalities and police officers against civil rights claims; defense of asbestos and other product liability or premises claims; and commercial litigation.  Over the course of his career, Rich has drafted briefs and presented oral argument in four cases before the Illinois Supreme Court and many more in the Illinois Appellate Court.

Just prior to joining Heyl Royster, Rich practiced as an owning shareholder at a Chicago-based civil litigation law firm. He had previously been a partner at Freeborn & Peters LLP, where, over a period of 20 years, he tried more cases as lead counsel in state and federal courts than any other attorney in the firm. Rich began his career as an Assistant State's Attorney (ASA) in Cook County, IL where he prosecuted 49 felony jury cases to verdict, including several capital cases. When he left the State’s Attorney’s Office, he had been serving as a Deputy Supervisor in the Narcotics and Dangerous Drug Unit.

Significant Cases

  • In Re Matteson Marine 2012 WL 7110565 (2012), U.S. District Court, Central District of Illinois, Rock Island (2012) Represented BNSF Railway Company as co-counsel with Heyl Royster in a case tried before the court sitting in admiralty involving damages occurred when a river barge struck the client’s railroad bridge. In its published opinion, the court noted, “…the exemplary quality of the legal representation of the parties in this case. The attorneys were always completely prepared and presented the evidence in a wholly professional manner. While aggressively advocating on behalf of their clients, counsel pursued their advocacy in a highly civil manner.” The court awarded damages to BNSF in excess of $690,000.
  • BNSF Railway Company v. ABC-NACO Circuit Court of Cook Co., IL (2009) Represented BNSF Railway Company as lead counsel in a three-week product liability trial involving a multimillion dollar claim against the manufacturer of a railroad car part that caused a catastrophic 26-car derailment. After BNSF recovered a large amount in settlement with two defendants, the case was tried against ABC-NACO to a $4.4 million verdict in favor of BNSF. Also served as lead counsel for BNSF on appeal in which the court considered numerous issues including:  choice of law (Arizona or Illinois), sufficiency of the proof of a product defect, foreseeability of an intervening cause, admissibility of expert testimony, preservation of evidence, adequacy of the jury instructions and the effect of a prior court order dismissing claims of other defendants pursuant to a settlement.  The appellate court held that the judgment was satisfied by the prior settlement with other defendants, but otherwise affirmed the jury’s verdict. Burlington Northern v. ABC-NACO, 389 Ill.App.3d 691, 906 N.E.2d 83 (1st Dist. 2009).
  • Soo Line Railroad Company v. Illinois Tollway Authority 2016 WL 1215372 (2017) Represented the Canadian Pacific Railway (CP) in a dispute with the Illinois Tollway Authority about the Tollway’s plans to build a new toll road through and under CP’s Bensenville Yard. CP’s suit in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois sought declaratory judgment that the Tollway’s attempt to condemn large swaths of CP’s yard under state law is pre-empted by the federal Interstate Commerce Commission Termination Act (ICCTA). The matter is stayed before the Seventh Circuit while the suit is before the federal Surface Transportation Board for resolution.
  • Roth v. Norfalco Middle District of Pennsylvania (2006) Represented the seller and shipper of sulfuric acid in a claim brought against it by an employee at a paper mill who was seriously burned by acid when attempting to unload the client’s tank car. The trial court granted the defendant/client’s motion for summary judgment, finding that the plaintiffs’ claims that the railroad car was defective were preempted by the federal Hazardous Materials Transportation Act, 49 U.S.C. §§ 5101-5128. The decision was affirmed on appeal in Roth v. Norfalco, 651 F.3d 367 (3rd Cir. 2011).
  • Schultz v. Metra 201 Ill.2d 260, 775 N.E.2d 964 (2002) Represented Metra as co-lead counsel on appeal.  The main issue before the Illinois Supreme Court was the propriety of using the Illinois Pattern Jury Damages Instruction on “pre-existing conditions” in a case brought under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act, 45 U.S.C. §51 et seq. where controlling federal substantive law differs from state law on the definition of a pre-existing condition. The court held that the pattern jury instruction on pre-existing condition was erroneous.
  • People of the State of Illinois v. Vulcan Materials, Inc. Circuit Court of Cook County (2010) Represented the State of Illinois and the Illinois Department of Transportation in a suit against Vulcan Materials, Inc. involving the State's claim that the defendant permanently damaged a one-mile section of historic Route 66, in McCook, Illinois, when over many years it mined rock in its limestone quarry too close to the road. The matter was significant due the public interest that the case generated, and the fascinating historical, engineering, and legal issues involved. Opposing counsel were Dan Webb and Scott Szala of Winston & Strawn. After protracted litigation, the case settled in favor of the State in the amount of $40 million.
  • CSX et al. v. Combustion Engineering, et al. U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan (1992) Represented the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in claims against the designers, manufacturers and shippers of a large component located on a railroad flat car, for damages and losses sustained when the railroad car derailed, causing a fire and ten square-mile evacuation near Freeland, Michigan on July 22, 1989. After 10 years of litigation, including a binding arbitration hearing, obtained a full recovery for Santa Fe for all claims paid.
  • Vodak et al., v. City of Chicago, et al., U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois (2003) Represented the City of Chicago and numerous Chicago Police Commanders and Officers in a class action brought by all people detained or arrested by Chicago Police officers during anti-war protests at the commencement of the Iraq War in 2003. Participated as lead trial counsel in discovery and preparation of a motion for summary judgment that was granted, dismissing all defendants.  The trial court’s decision is reported at 623 F.Supp.2d 933 (N.D. Ill. 2009).
  • People v. Roush 101 Ill.2d 355 (1984) Represented the People of the State of Illinois Lead counsel on brief and in oral argument regarding an order of the Circuit Court of Cook County holding the Illinois Department of Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities in contempt of court for failing to prevent patients found not guilty by reason of insanity from escaping from its facilities. The Supreme Court upheld the appellate court’s reversal of the circuit court’s order.
  • People v. Simmons 93 Ill.2d 94 (1982) Represented the People of the State of Illinois as lead counsel on brief and in oral argument in an appeal from convictions for involuntary manslaughter and armed violence.
  • People v. Eddmonds 101 Ill.2d 44 (1984) Represented the People of the State of Illinois as lead counsel on brief and in oral argument in appeal from a murder conviction and imposition of death penalty.  The court affirmed the conviction and death sentence.
  • Rundquist v. BNSF Railway Co. Circuit Court for the Ninth Judicial Circuit, Knox Co., IL (2012) Represented BNSF Railway at trial in an injury claim brought under the Federal Employer’s Liability Act. The jury returned a defense verdict.
  • Aldis v. City of Chicago Northern District of Illinois (2013) Defended City of Chicago and Chicago Police officers at trial in civil rights claim. The jury returned a defense verdict.
  • Aldridge v. Haggerty Northern District of Illinois (2013) Defended City of Chicago and Chicago Police officers at trial in civil rights claim. The jury returned a defense verdict.
  • Ciezki v. City of Chicago Northern District of Illinois (2013) Defended City of Chicago and Chicago Police officers at trial in civil rights claim. The jury returned a defense verdict.
  • Preston v. City of Chicago Northern District of Illinois (2014) Defended City of Chicago and Chicago Police officers at trial in civil rights claim. The jury returned a defense verdict.
  • Wright v. City of Chicago Northern District of Illinois (2014) Defended City of Chicago and Chicago Police officers in a bench trial in civil rights claim. The judge returned a defense verdict.
  • Multiple Plaintiffs v. Burge (2003-11) Represented defendants in notorious civil rights claims involving allegations of torture and forced confessions by the “Midnight Crew” at Area 2 Chicago Police Headquarters.

Publications

  • "OSHA V. FRA Regulations and Use of OSHA Regulations As A Basis For Negligence," Fourth Railroad Litigator's Notebook, National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel (2002)

Public Speaking

  • “Private Police Forces and Public Accountability”
    International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Agencies Annual Meeting 2016
  • “Event Recorders and Locomotive Camera Video and Audio in Litigation”
    National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel Winter Meeting 2014
  • “Pre-trial Motions, Opening Statements, Direct and Cross-examination, Closing Arguments”
    National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel 2013
  • “Legal Issues Arising from Protests and Crowd Control”
    Triton Security Company 2012
  • “Case Review on Legal Issues Related to Protests and Crowd Control”
    DuPage County State's Attorney's Law Enforcement Training Seminar 2012

Professional Recognition

  • Leading Lawyers of Illinois: Transportation Defense Law; Civil Rights/Constitutional Law; Insurance, Insurance Coverage & Reinsurance Law; Personal Injury Defense; Products Liability Defense

Professional Associations

  • National Association of Railroad Trial Counsel

Court Admissions

  • State Courts of Illinois
  • State Courts of Minnesota
  • United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit
  • United States District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Member, Trial Bar)
  • United States District Court, Central District of Illinois
  • United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan
  • United States District Court, Middle District of Pennsylvania
  • Pro Hac Vice in Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, Washington, Indiana, Pennsylvania