Railroad Not Liable for Death of Deaf Woman Struck by Train, High Court Rules

A fatal accident occuring along a train track in a New Orleans suburb resulted in a tragic death and, subsequently, a lawsuit that made it all the way to the Louisiana Supreme Court. Unfortunately for the family of the deaf woman killed in the accident, the high court concluded that the evidence in the case indicated that the accident was the result of the woman’s failure to look out for trains before entering the track, not improper warning signage at the intersection.

58-year-old Cynthia Tuckson was struck and killed as she walked along the railroad tracks at Taylor Street and Kenner Avenue in Kenner. The woman, who was deaf, could not hear the train coming and walked directly into its path. Witnesses at the scene told police that Tuckson did not see the train, according to nola.com. After the accident, Tuckson’s son sued the railroad, the conductor, the engineer and the city of Kenner for the wrongful death of his mother.

The son argued that the intersection where his mother died was inadequately signed, that the city and railroad had a duty to install active warning signals (such as caution lights or crossing arms,) but failed to do so and the failure to install this active warning system caused the woman’s death. An expert retained by the son contended that, due to the intersection’s limited sight lines and history of accidents, a warning system with lights and/or crossing arms was warranted. The trial court disagreed and granted a summary judgment motion that threw out the case, a ruling that the Louisiana Supreme Court concluded was proper.

The court looked at several pieces of evidence that the trial court had relied upon in ruling in favor of the railroad and the city. The court pointed out that the unlit cross buck (or X-shaped) sign with no crossing arms were both installed and kept up in compliance with the relevant state statute, La. R.S. 32:169.

Because the signage was compliant with the statutes, the law required the son to show that the fatal intersection was “a dangerous trap.” This standard means that, in order to look for oncoming trains, a pedestrian must place herself so close to the tracks as to be in harm’s way. The Taylor Street intersection was no such trap. A video the railroad introduced into evidence at trial showed that the woman had a clear opportunity to look for trains from a position of safety (about 12-15 feet away from the nearest tracks) and, if she had done so, she doubtlessly would have observed the train that struck and killed her. The woman, regrettably, “simply did not look in either direction before crossing the tracks.” While tragic, the incident did not amount to a failure, by the railroad or the city, to protect pedestrian users from unreasonable risks of harm.

Injury accidents, especially fatal ones, are profoundly difficult events for the loved ones of the deceased. If your family has lost a loved one due to the negligence or misconduct of someone else, you already have much to manage without having to shoulder the burden of legal action by yourself. For careful advice and aggressive representation in your wrongful death case, talk to the Louisiana wrongful death attorneys at Cardone Law Firm. Our injury attorneys have the knowledge and experience to help you pursue your case against those responsible.

For your confidential consultation contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.

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