BEAUMONT – Following
a full month of testimony, a Jefferson County jury has rendered a verdict in
favor for Union Pacific Railroad, finding the company was not responsible
for a 2013 train collision with a vehicle stopped on its tracks.
On June 28
jurors issued a verdict in the trial of Roberson v. UPR, assigning 100 percent
negligence to plaintiff Jimmy Ray Roberson and awarding no damages.
closing remarks, Roberson’s attorney, Paul “Chip” Ferguson Jr., told the jury
that in order to make their verdict count, they needed to find UPR grossly
negligent, which would have entitled the plaintiffs to exemplary damages.
maintained in its defense that it and its employees followed federal
“We are very disappointed in the outcome; however, it was a difficult case as evidenced by the very low settlement offer made by Union Pacific prior to trial," Ferguson told the Record.
"We do believe we proved that Union Pacific’s long-standing policy not to stop for vehicles stuck on the track until it was too late to stop was unsafe; however, the jury was obviously influenced by other factors. We are most disappointed for our clients, Jimmy and Misty Roberson. They are outstanding people and deserved better."
Ferguson added that the firm is exploring their options at this time regarding a new trial or appeal.
originally stems from a wrongful death suit brought by the estate of Joseph
Grant against UPR three years ago, which alleged that on Feb. 19, 2013 a UPR
train struck a tractor-trailer at a railroad crossing on Highway 90.
Grant was a
pedestrian at the time. The plaintiffs alleged in their original petition that
the train failed to sound its horn to warn him and also failed to apply its
brakes to avoid the collision.
November, Grant’s family moved to dismiss their claims against UPR and some
other defendants, as the parties had reached a settlement, court records show.
plaintiffs Jimmy Ray and Misty Roberson had joined the litigation. The case was
restyled and went to trial in early June.
to Jimmy Ray Roberson Jr.’s third amended petition, he was sitting in the
driver’s seat of the tractor-trailer, which was owned by T and D Solutions and
not moving at the time of the incident.
also alleges the train failed to sound the horn and apply the brakes.
maintained the horn was blown but background noise drowned out the whistle.
to testimony attached to the petition, Leroy Price III, the engineer driving
the train, testified that he did not he slow down when he saw the
tractor-trailer on the tracks.
slowed down or stopped for everybody that got on a crossing, the train would
never get to where it was going and I would never have a job,” Price is quoted
as saying in the petition.
maintained the economy is dependent on the railroads and if a train stopped for
every obstruction the economy would suffer.
collision resulted in Roberson suffering debilitating injuries requiring
extensive medical care, the suit states.
suit, the Robersons contend the crossing was “ultra-hazardous and dangerous”
due to the steep grade and the potential for ‘high centering.’ They further allege
there was a lack of proper warning devices.
start of the trial, UPR filed a fifth amended answer on May 27, asserting a
general denial and that the negligence that caused the incident belonged to
Roberson and T and D Solutions.
Roberson failed to adequately heed the stop sign posted and the crossing and
drove his vehicle across without having sufficient undercarriage clearance.
On top of
exemplary damages, the Robersons sought millions for their mental anguish and
pain, lost wages, medical expenses and loss of consortium.
Aside from Ferguson, the plaintiffs were also represented by Casey Hargroder and Scott Alexander of Beaumont.
represented in part by David Lee Crawford, attorney for the Houston law firm
Sanderson, 60th District Court, is presiding over the case.