January 3

Metrolink’s challenge to Glendale train crash negligence claims to be heard

first_imgAn appellate panel has agreed to hear Metrolink’s challenge of a judge’s decision to allow plaintiffs to pursue negligence claims stemming from a train wreck that killed 11 people, the agency announced today. The Jan. 26, 2005, crash at the Glendale-Los Angeles city line also injured more than 180 others. In June, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Emilie H. Elias rejected an argument by Metrolink’s attorneys that the transit agency was immune from negligence claims in the case. But she encouraged the 2nd District Court of Appeal to review her ruling before the first trial involving three consolidated lawsuits begins next July 14. The Metrolink lawyers maintained the agency’s immunity stems from relevant federal laws that override state statutes and because of regulations set forth by the Federal Railroad Administration. The plaintiffs allege the agency was negligent for having locomotives push passenger trains from the rear, where they cannot act as a buffer during a crash in the way a locomotive can. Jerome L. Ringler, the lead lawyer for the plaintiffs, said he was not surprised by the appellate court’s decision to review Harris’ ruling. He said his clients have additional claims for negligence that go beyond the alleged liability stemming from the push-pull method. Ringer said Metrolink has at least three alternatives to the push-pull method, including putting locomotives at both ends of the train. He maintains the trains can be made safer at a lower cost than Metrolink’s plans to buy stronger passenger cars and continue to keep one up front while pushing. Juan Manuel Alvarez, 28, is accused of driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee onto the railroad tracks that day and getting out of the vehicle before a Metrolink train slammed into it. That train and another Metrolink train — going in the opposite direction – – derailed. Alvarez, who was arrested shortly after the crash and has been in jail without bail since then, faces 11 murder charges. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Alvarez, who is due back in court on Sept. 13 for a pretrial hearing. The former construction worker’s wife and cousin said after the crash that Alvarez was suicidal — a claim challenged by Glendale police. 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! The FRA left it up to local operators around the country whether they wished to use the “push-pull” method to drive trains where engines travel at less than 125 mph, Metrolink attorneys argued. In her 16-page ruling, Elias stated “negligence law appears to be a reasonable check on operators’ conduct or inaction.” In a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the American Passenger Transportation Association on behalf of Metrolink, lawyers for APTA argue that Harris misread the law and rendered a decision that “threatens (train) operations across the country.” Metrolink continues to use the push-pull method, in which trains are pulled by a locomotive one way and then pushed when they go in the opposite direction, making it appear the trains are traveling toward their destinations in reverse. An engineer sits in the front of the leading passenger car during the push method and controls the train by remote control. In the January 2005 Metrolink crash — the deadliest rail crash since 1999 — the cars were being pushed. last_img read more