In a recent opinion, a state appellate court considered a wrongful death claim arising out of a train accident, ultimately concluding that the plaintiff was not entitled to relief. The tragic facts of the case and the plaintiff’s loss in court highlights something Maryland train accident victims know all too well: the difficulty in recovering against railroad companies when accidents occur.
According to the court’s written opinion, the tragic accident happened one morning when the victim, a 16-year-old girl, was walking to her school bus stop, a route which required her to walk through a railroad crossing and across railroad tracks. The railroad crossing’s warnings, including the bells, whistles, flashing lights, and automatic lever blocking cars, were all working and activated, indicating to the public that a train was approaching. The victim did not heed the warnings, and instead began to walk across the crossing. Almost immediately after she stepped onto the tracks, a freight train hit her, killing her instantly.
The victim’s mother filed a wrongful death action against the railroad company, the train conductor, and the train’s engineer, alleging two things. First, that the company failed to ensure proper safety measures, such as a pedestrian barrier, were in place at the railroad crossing to prevent children from walking onto the track. Second, the plaintiff alleged that the train conductor and engineer were negligent in operating the train, making them vicariously liable for the accident. The defendants filed a motion for summary judgment, which the trial court granted. Subsequently, the plaintiff appealed.