We recently blogged about the possible claims against Metro North on February 23, 2015 as a result of the collision with a car at the Commerce Street Crossing in Valhalla, New York. The accident caused the death of 5 people on the train and the death of the driver of the car on the tracks, along with injuries to 12 other people on the train..

We outlined in the blog different areas that Metro North could be liable including the design of the crossing where the accident occurred. The crossing was noted to be a “dangerous crossing”, in that, if 3 or more cars were at the crossing stopped for the red light, one of the cars would be on the tracks when the gates come down, as was the situation for Ellen Brody, who was the driver of the car that got hit. Further, it has been discovered that a third gate was proposed for the intersection but were never installed.

Another theory against Metro North was the improper design of the third rail which penetrated the first car of the train killing passengers by blunt force trauma and created a fire that burned some of the first car passengers to death. On Friday, March 6, 2015, a Mount Kisco man who was on the Metro North train filed a Notice of Claim against the railroad which is required by law before you can start a lawsuit. In an article in The Journal News on Saturday, March 7, 2015 by Theresa Java-Brown, she states “man seeks 10 million in lawsuit from railroad agency”. The victim, Michael Colquhoun, a passenger in the second car of the train, suffered an arm injury when he was jolted in the crash. He is also claiming “post traumatic stress”.

The attorney for Mr. Colquhoun also sued New York State in a separate action in the Court of Claims. The attorney stated “it’s very easy to blame Miss Body. Let’s look beyond that”. He opined that extra lights and gates were planned at the crossing in 2009 which could have prevented the crash but were never installed. He also questioned the location of the grade crossing and why Metro North did not have technologies to detect obstructions on the tracks. The Notice of Claim also lists a host of other charges against Metro North which are the same listed in our previous blog of February 23, 2014 including that the railroad failed “to ensure that the train tracks, more specifically the third rail, should not have been ripped up and sheared the train”.

On February 24, 2015, BBC News US & Canada discussed “a commuter train has hit a lorry which had driven on railway tracks causing 4 carriages to derail northwest of Los Angeles”. The vehicle engulfed in flames and 28 people were injured, 4 critically. The Metrolink spokesperson estimated the train struck the lorry at a speed between 40 – 50 mph. The train was carrying 51 people with 3 crew members. 28 people were taken to local hospitals. The lorry driver wanted to turn right at a junction but turned too soon and drove onto the tracks before abandoning the lorry facing the train head on when it was hit. Investigators for NTSB were looking into whether the automotive arms that act as a barrier to traffic were functioning properly. The article points out that there are over 200 level crossing accidents in the U.S. each year with 250 fatalities. Since a Metrolink train collided with a freight train in 2008 in Northern Los Angeles and killed 25 people and injuring many. The most important points of the article was that Metrolink had, after the 2008 collision, added collapsible bumpers and other crash absorption technology to its train and Metrolink spokesman claimed “Tuesday’s accident would have been much worse without the measures added to the train after 2008” which leaves one wondering if the technology existed in 2008 to make the first car safer with collapsible bumpers and other crash absorption technology. Why didn’t Metro North have these safety features before the February 3, 2015 Commerce Street Crossing accident? These features on the first car could have saves lives and injuries.

If you, or someone you know has been injured by a train, while driving, contact the law firm of Dominick J. Robustelli & Associates, PLLC at (914) 288-0800.

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