An Oklahoma state court jury on Dec. 15 returned a verdict against Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co. The case involved the death of a man who was struck by a train while crossing tracks in his vehicle. The jury found BNSF to be 65 percent responsible for the fatal crash, and apportioned 35 percent responsibility to the victim. A total of $14.8 million was awarded. BNSF will be responsible to pay $2.6 million. Nye was killed when a BNSF train struck his Jeep on Dec. 29, 2008.
The crash occurred at about 5 p.m. and the main issue was whether vegetation obscured Nye’s vision along the gravel road that crossed the tracks as well as on the right of way of the tracks themselves. The vegetation would have made it hard for Nye to see the train and vice versa. The lawsuit also alleged the train crew didn’t blow the horn as they were supposed to. That was disputed by BNSF. A passenger in Nye’s Jeep testified that he didn’t hear a horn. The train’s event recorder did not show a horn being sounded. But that also was disputed by the railroad.
The family alleged that BNSF should have installed flashing lights and gates to adequately warn the public of all approaching trains. The railroad argued it shouldn’t have to install those safety features at that particular crossing. The family said it brought this case in order to hold BNSF accountable and hopefully prevent any future tragedies at dangerous railroad crossings. Nye was a football coach and science teacher for Sulfur High School in Sulfur, Okla.
Nye’s family is represented by Grant L. Davis and Thomas C. Jones of Davis Bethune & Jones, a firm located in Kansas City, Mo. They did a very good job in the case which was tried in the Pontotoc County District Court in Ada, Okla.
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