RGR, LLC v. Settle – $2.5M Railroad Crash Verdict Affirmed in Part

Railway crashes and accidents result in hundreds of deaths each year, according to the Federal Railway Administration, which reported a total of 1,734 train accidents in 2012.

In comparison to the enormous carnage seen on America’s roadways involving solely motor vehicles (causing an estimated 33,000 deaths annually), it might seem a minor problem. However, 700 deaths in a single year – 2012 – is cause for concern. That’s only slightly fewer than the number of people killed in recreational boating incidents, so it warrants the attention of motorists.

Just recently in Alabama, a 27-year-old former contestant on the hit show “Survivor” was killed in Birmingham while working as a conductor when an axle on one of the cars derailed and he was thrown into another car in the yard.

Some of the more common causes of train accidents in Alabama include:

  • Failing mechanics
  • Malfunctioning lights or signals
  • Inadequate track maintenance
  • Failure to install/maintain safety gates
  • Unprotected crossings
  • Conductor negligence
  • Defective train or parts

Our Montgomery injury lawyers know Alabama is far from the only state dealing with the risks. Recently in Virginia, the Virginia Supreme Court was asked to weigh in on an appeal of a case wherein the widow of a dump truck driver was awarded $2.5 million against a railroad company, following the driver’s death at a railroad intersection.

The trial court’s verdict in RGR, LLC v. Settle was affirmed in part and reversed in part. The state high court found defendant did owe a duty of reasonable care to decedent and the trial court did not err in finding decedent was not contributorily negligent as a matter of law. However, damages were incorrectly factored, and the case was remanded on that issue.

The crash reportedly occurred at a private railroad crossing, where there were no stop signs, barriers or warning signals. All that was present were “cross buck signs,” the standard “X” railroad crossing sign.

Defendant railroad company, on the date of the accident, stacked piles of lumber near the tracks in the right-of-way, blocking the driver’s view of a possible oncoming train. Witnesses on the opposite side of the track say the train conductor failed to blow the horn as he approached the intersection. Others testified it would have been difficult for the dump truck driver to hear the train otherwise, as his vehicle was loud in operation. The worst-case scenario unfolded, and the driver was killed.

His widow, as personal representative of his estate, filed a wrongful death action against the railroad company.

She was successful in her claim, which resulted in a $2.5 million award for damages, including prejudgment interest. The only point with which the appellate court took issue was the prejudgment interest to be paid by defendant. Because plaintiff had settled with another company prior to trial for $500,000, that amount should be subtracted from the interest calculations.

Call Allred & Allred P.C. at 334.396.9200 to speak with a Montgomery personal injury lawyer.

Additional Resources:
RGR, LLC v. Settle, Oct. 31, 2014, Virginia Supreme Court
More Blog Entries:
Rose v. Highway Equipment Co. – Overcoming Pure Contributory Negligence Standard in Alabama, Sept. 25, 2014, Montgomery Injury Attorney Blog

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