The mother of a man who died of the personal injuries he suffered when he was struck by a train has filed a wrongful death suit against the railroad company, the engineer, the track owner, and the refinery where the tracks were located, alleging that there were inadequate warnings at a hazardous crossing.

Willie B. Rance filed the suit in Texas’ Jefferson County District Court on behalf of her son Calvin Burnett on February 19 naming Exxon Mobil, Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe, and engineer Louis E. Welch as defendants. 

Rance seeks punitive damages and also wishes for the companies to lose their Texas business licenses if they do not promptly comply with terms of any judgment resulting from her suit.

The original complaint says that last year, Burnett was entering the Exxon Mobil facility in Beaumont, Texas to report for work. As he was crossing the tracks, which are owned by Union Pacific, he was struck by a BNSF train driven by Welch, killing him.

According to the suit, there were no flashing light signals with gates at the crossing, despite the defendants knowing that their duty to install them had not been federally preempted. The suit says they knew the crossing to be “extra-hazardous,” a prior accident had occurred there, they knew the visibility to be limited, and they had received state approval for the signals.

According to Rance, the railroad defendants relied upon corporate policy not requiring engineers involved in crossing accidents where people suffer personal injuries or wrongful death to be punished.

The suit claims the railroad defendants spent only a small fraction of their income on installing flashing lights signals, despite knowing fatalities could be reduced by 90 percent. The suit claims they are negligent for “giving profits priority over safety.”

The suit alleges negligence on the part of BNSF and UP for failure to install a horn on the train and provide proper maintenance and service to the track.

The suit alleges negligence on the part of Exxon Mobil for the unreasonable risk of harm posed by its premises.

The suit alleges negligence on the part of engineer Welch for operating the train at a rate of speed in violation of ordinary care, failure to reduce speed at the crossing, failure to maintain a proper lookout, failure to apply emergence brakes, failure to reduce the train’s throttle, and failure to sound the horn at the quarter-mile marker and sound it continuously through the crossing.

Rance seeks compensation for actual damages, punitive damages, exemplary damages, interest, costs of suit, and other relief.
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