The families of three of the four military veterans killed by a Union Pacific train in Midland, Texas, in 2012 are asking the state’s highest court to review the dismissal of their wrongful death claims.
The veterans were on a flatbed trailer parade float when it was struck by the freight train at a rail crossing during a parade honoring wounded veterans in Midland, Texas on Nov. 15, 2012. A National Transportation Safety Board review of the crash blamed confusion on the parts of both the truck driver and the train engineer in the moments precipitating the crash.
In their petition to the Texas Supreme Court, the families' attorneys argued that a lower court erred in deciding that a federal law's requirement of 20 seconds' warning at a train crossing was sufficient, even though the design of the crossing called for 30 seconds' warning.
The Union Pacific train was traveling 62 mph when it hit the trailer carrying the wounded veterans and their spouses. Two veterans died at the scene and two more died later at the hospital. More than a dozen other people were injured.
The petition cites a defect in the signaling system that gave eastbound trains shorter warning than westbound ones.
“This is an extremely important case, not just for the families of these three veterans, but for all Texans, whether they are crossing the railroad tracks in Midland or in any other city or town,” Austin attorney Doug Alexander of Alexander Dubose Jefferson and Townsend, said in a news release announcing the petition’s filing. “Texas has the highest number of collisions at rail crossings of any state in the country. This case is but one sad example, one that didn't have to happen.”
The families of Sgt. Maj. Lawrence Boivin, Marine Chief Warrant Officer 3 Gary Stouffer and Army Sgt. Maj. William Lubbers sued, claiming Union Pacific violated federal regulations and that the train's crew was negligent. But a trial court granted summary judgment for the railroad, saying the claims were pre-empted by federal law. The 11th Court of Appeals in Eastland affirmed.
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