Trucking company in 2011 Amtrak crash may have to pay attorney fees

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | Thursday, September 18, 2014

The courts may deal yet another blow to a Nevada trucking company involved in a crash with an Amtrak train in 2011 that killed a truck driver and five train passengers.

U.S. District Court Judge Howard McKibben is considering whether to make John Davis Trucking Co. of Battle Mountain, Nev., pay attorney fees in addition to a $4.7 million jury award to Amtrak and the Union Pacific Railroad.

If attorney fees are awarded, the penalty to John Davis Trucking could total more than $5.5 million according to reports.

Crash investigators said a number of factors contributed to the June 24, 2011, crash on U.S. Route 95 near Miriam, Nev.

The National Transportation Safety Board said the late truck driver Lawrence Valli, 43, was inattentive and did not respond to the descending gate arms and flashing lights prior to crashing into the train. The agency also said many of the brakes on Valli’s 2008 Peterbilt were deficient or out of adjustment.

Investigators said possible reasons for Valli’s inattention related to fatigue, distraction from use of a hand-held cellphone, and distraction from pain associated with a medical condition. They also said Valli did not disclose his complete job history when he applied to work for John Davis Trucking.

The jury found the company to be negligent for manually adjusting automatic slack adjusters and disabling anti-lock brake systems on its trailers.

During court proceedings, attorneys for John Davis Trucking said the gate arms at the railroad crossing were not working properly and accused the railroad of replacing the gate mechanism and suppressing evidence.

The NTSB stated in its report that the railroad crossing mechanism was in working order at the time of the crash.

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