U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle in Philadelphia ruled last month in the case involving the former Penn Central Railroad. Bartle said American Premier Underwriters Inc., which now holds many of the former railroad's assets, must pay the workers, The Plain Dealer (http://bit.ly/Oifhnl) reported Thursday.
Although only two of the 32 original people who sued are alive, the others' estates are expected to receive awards, according to court records.
If Penn Central paid the workers in 1968, it would have cost the company $564,820, according to court records. Compounding interest has pushed the amount to $14.7 million, the newspaper reported.
Attorneys representing the former railroad company could still appeal the decision. Attorney Michael Cioffi did not immediately return a call Thursday to his Cincinnati office.
One of the surviving workers, Phillip Franz, of Middleburg Heights, said it's hard to believe the railroad has fought them so long.
"Anyone you tell about it laughs at you," Franz said.
The other worker is ill.
"Finally, they will get what they deserved," said lawyer Carla Tricarichi, who has represented the workers since the 1980s.
Tricarichi worked the case with her father, who died in 2000, and took out a line of credit on her home to pay for some of the mounting expenses that she and other lawyers believe it is one of the oldest in the country.
The case docket is filled with nearly 19,000 filings, orders and memorandums.
Franz and the others worked for the New York Central Railroad at various sites in Cleveland. New York Central merged with the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1968 to form Penn Central. Workers said the merger agreement promised they would keep the seniority, pay and health care benefits they had with their old companies, but they alleged they lost everything and sued Penn Central in 1969.
The company argued that the men were employees of Cleveland Union Terminal Co., which ran a passenger station and a terminal used and paid for by several train lines, including New York Central.
A federal judge in Ohio in 1976 ruled that the workers were New York Central employees and deserved benefits and seniority, but the case has gone back and forth between arbitrators, judges and appellate panels.
American Premier in 2007 pushed the case to Philadelphia, alleging that the workers claims were wiped out through bankruptcy proceedings.
Information from: The Plain Dealer, http://www.cleveland.com