Trucking firm sues Amtrak, UP over crash
RENO (AP) – A Nevada trucking company is suing Amtrak and Union Pacific, claiming they failed to maintain a safe railroad crossing at the rural site where one of its drivers plowed into an Amtrak train last month, killing six people and injuring dozens of others.
In documents filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Reno, John Davis Trucking Co. claims the companies did not adequately warn drivers of oncoming trains. Amtrak also has a pending lawsuit against John Davis Trucking.
“Our position is that John Davis Trucking has acted properly and has done everything right,” said Steve Jaffee, lawyer for the Battle Mountain trucking company. “The evidence will demonstrate that this was an issue involving Amtrak and Union Pacific and failures on their part.”
Union Pacific spokesman Aaron Hunt said his company had not seen the complaint and could not comment.
“Any Amtrak statements regarding lawsuits arising from this incident will be found in documents filed with courts,” Amtrak spokeswoman Danelle Hunter said in a statement issued Saturday.
Union Pacific owns the tracks that Amtrak uses.
The Amtrak passenger train was en route from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay area on June 24 when Lawrence Valli’s truck slammed through the crossing gates on U.S. 95 about 70 miles east of Reno and into one of the cars. Valli and five people on the train died in the fiery crash.
Amtrak sued the trucking company in June, claiming it was negligently operated. Suits also were filed against John Davis Trucking by three people aboard the train who survived the crash, and by a man who lost his wife and a granddaughter in the accident. They claimed the trucking firm was negligent in hiring and training its drivers.
In its response to the federal suit filed by Amtrak, John Davis Trucking claims the railroad companies were to blame. The complaint contends Amtrak and Union Pacific breached their duties “by allowing trains to accelerate in the approach to the grade crossing” and by failing to install and maintain warning device mechanisms that would provide adequate warning to motorists of approaching trains.
Because of this failure, the suit says, “Valli was inadequately warned, resulting in him being unable to stop the truck he was operating in time to avoid colliding with the Amtrak train,” which was traveling more than 75 mph.
John Davis Trucking’s countersuit seeks unspecified damages and accident-related expenses.