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Dump truck driver struck and killed by train on private roadway – $2,500,000 Verdict

The decedent was a dump truck driver carrying gravel to a worksite on private land reached by a private road within Prince William County. As the decedent traveled down a dirt road to an unmarked railroad crossing, his view to the right to see any oncoming trains was hindered by a stack of wood that was alleged to have been improperly stacked by a reload company in the right of way of the railroad company. On behalf of the decedent, it was contended that his dump truck would be nine feet past the wood pile before he could even see down the track, which left the front end of the dump truck merely 15 feet from where he would be struck by an oncoming train from his right. Visibility was also limited to the left. The plaintiff contended that the train failed to blow his whistle or horn (although this was vehemently denied by the train engineer and the train conductor) and that as a result of that failure, the decedent had a right to proceed at five miles per hour towards the tracks. With the normal reaction time and stopping distance for a fully loaded dump truck with unsynchronized gears, he had no chance to stop. The dump truck was struck by the train and the decedent was killed immediately.

The defendants’ positions were that they owed no duty to the motoring public on that private roadway, that the decedent was contributorily negligent as a matter of law for failing to come to a complete stop before crossing the track, and that no one had complained or put them on notice of the woodpile or asked them to remove the woodpile. The case was hard fought over five days and the jury rendered a verdict in a little less than two and a half hours.

Post trial motions and motion for a remittitur were filed by the defendants, and were argued and denied by the court. A final order has been entered.


Type of action: Wrongful death – auto/train accident
Court: Prince William County Circuit Court
Tried before: Jury
Date: November 2012
Offer: $100,000
Verdict or settlement: Verdict
Amount: $2,500,000 (plus $585,000 prejudgment interest)
Attorneys for plaintiff: Kevin L. Locklin, Christopher I. Kachouroff and Robert J. Cynkar
Attorneys for defendants: James C. Skilling and Charles L. Williams

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