BEAUMONT – For the rest of the month of June, a Jefferson County jury will be tied up hearing evidence on whether Union Pacific Railroad is responsible for causing a train to collide with a vehicle stopped on its tracks.
Three years ago, the estate of Joseph Grant filed a wrongful death suit against UPR, alleging 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.
Last 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.
However, plaintiffs Jimmy Ray and Misty Roberson had joined the litigation. The case was restyled and went to trial in early June.
According 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.
Roberson also alleges the train failed to sound the horn and apply the brakes.
According to testimony attached to the petition, Leroy Price III, the engineer driving the train, testified that the horn was not blown, nor did he slow down when he saw the tractor-trailer on the tracks.
“If I 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.
The collision resulted in Roberson suffering debilitating injuries requiring extensive medical care, the suit states.
In their 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.
Before the 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.
UPR contends Roberson failed to adequately heed the stop sign posted and the crossing and drove his vehicle across without having sufficient undercarriage clearance.
The Robersons are suing for punitive damages and seek monetary relief in excess of $1 million.
They are represented by Beaumont attorney Paul “Chip” Ferguson Jr.
UPR is represented in part by David Lee Crawford, attorney for the Houston law firm Phelps Dunbar.
Judge Gary Sanderson, 60th District Court, is presiding over the case.
Case No. B-194123