JACKSON, Miss. (Legal Newsline) -- The Supreme Court of Mississippi has reversed a $4.8 million verdict in a wrongful death case against Illinois Central Gulf Railroad.
The court on Nov. 29 found the evidence did not prove any negligence by Illinois Central, according to the opinion written by Justice George C. Carlson Jr.
A train struck Michael Travis' vehicle on a railroad crossing and killed him in 1997.
As the train approached the crossing at 52 miles per hour, eight miles below the speed limit, the vehicle stopped short of the tracks and the tires did not cross the tracks. However, the vehicle was close enough to be clipped by the train.
The mother of the deceased, Mary Travis, filed a wrongful death suit against Illinois Central Railroad Company and train operator Aurthur Irby in the Circuit Court of Holmes County.
Travis claimed the train engineer did not properly and timely apply the brakes and failure to keep a lookout.
Specifically against Illinois Central, Travis claimed the railroad crossing area was overgrown by vegetation that limited visibility which caused failure to warn, failure to properly train the crew and failure to adopt and enforce adequate policies and procedures relating to train operation.
In response, the company held its crew acted properly and that there was no credible evidence to support the original verdict reached by the jury.
"The evidence overwhelmingly points in favor of Illinois Central such that no reasonable jury could have found for Travis," Carlson wrote.
Illinois Central contends that the train horn was sounded in accordance with Mississippi law and was loud enough to be heard by drivers, therefore giving no reason for a jury to find Illinois Central liable.
In regards to further allegations the company argued the crew had no obligation to stop the train until it became evident that the vehicle was crossing the track.
Irby testified that he was prepared with his hand on the automatic break valve. However, using the break or reducing the throttle "would not have changed the speed of the train in that short of distance."
The court concluded the decedent did not see or hear the training coming because he was not looking or listening which caused the collision.
"We recognize that all railroad crossings are inherently dangerous," Carlson wrote. "However, a railroad will not be held liable where it committed no negligence, and where the evidence indicates that the driver simply failed to look and listen for the train."