Thomas C. Jones of DBJ secured a $1.9 million settlement for the family of a 22-year-old man who was killed in a railroad crossing accident. The man was traveling near Warrensburg, Missouri when his pickup truck was struck by a high-speed Amtrak train at an uncontrolled rural grade crossing.
The plaintiffs claimed that Union Pacific, which owned the crossing, knew it was dangerous, but failed to warn the public or change their safety procedures. Despite receiving a recommendation seven months earlier that lights and gates were needed because of a 90 percent sight-distance obstruction, the only warning device Union Pacific employed at the crossing consisted of faded crossbucks.
Amtrak trains routinely ran 70 mph around a nearby curve, although both the curve and the terrain obstructed the view. Motorists traveling north had less than three seconds’ visual notice of approaching trains. Local residents testified that the crossing was dangerous, and employees of a nearby plant testified they had informed Union Pacific of near misses involving their trucks.
The Amtrak train was on a demonstration tour of the United States. It had limited sight lines and was not intended to be run on tracks with unprotected crossings. In addition, the emergency brake lever could not easily be reached and the engineers were not instructed on the proper operation of the train on Missouri tracks, where many of the crossings have no lights or gates.
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