Grade Crossing Accident Operation - Boom Lift

GRADE CROSSING ACCIDENT OPERATION OF BOOM LIFT OVER RIGHT OF WAY

Claim at Issue: 

This matter involves a major derailment caused by a boom lift stopping on active railroad tracks. The railroad incurred over $3,700,000.00 in damages. When the claim was originally presented to KCM for collection the amount sought was $2,200,000.00. Through a careful analysis of the claim documents in the client file, we were able to identify approximately $1,500,000.00 in additional damages.


Key Legal or Factual Issues: 

  • Whether all damages arising from the derailment had been captured along with admissible evidence to support these damages.
  • There was also a question as to liability because there were indications that the lift was properly maintained but may have suffered a mechanical issue that was not foreseeable.


Case Summary: 

In March of 2017, a steel company employee operated a Genie brand boom lift over an active rail crossing in New York. As the lift traveled over the crossing, it stopped on the tracks as a train approached. The train then collided with the lift resulting in a significant derailment.


Following the cleanup, the railroad prepared an invoice identifying the costs it incurred as a result of the derailment. At the time the file was presented to us, the damages totaled approximately $2,200,000.00 million. We investigated the derailment, discussed the facts with witnesses in relevant railroad departments and audited the railroad's damages. Based upon our investigation, we determined that the original assessment of damages that the railroad compiled was incomplete. We assisted the railroad in identifying the additional damages, necessary supporting documentation and witnesses to support those damages. This resulted in an increase of $1,500,000.00 in damages arising from the derailment that would have otherwise been uncompensated.


We then filed suit in United States District Court for the Western District of New York against the company operating the lift, the company that trained the operator and the company that was renting the lift. In the lawsuit, we asserted claims for negligence and negligence per se. The negligence per se claim arose from the defendants' violations of New York law pertaining to operations on or near rail tracks.


During discovery the defendants took depositions pertaining to the railroad's damages, but ultimately focused on liability after recognizing the damages were well supported. With respect to liability, our depositions of the various witnesses and employees of the defendants resulted in damaging testimony that established that the defendants failed to properly train the operator and failed to properly inspect the lift before its operation. In fact, the operator had virtually no training and had never operated the lift prior to attempting to cross the tracks. He also did so while ignoring active crossing warnings indicating an approaching train. The testimony in support of the railroad's damages and the damaging testimony from the employees of the defendants resulted in a significant favorable settlement following court sponsored mediation.