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Arkansas High Court Denies Class-Action For Union Pacific Lawsuit

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  • Arkansas High Court Denies Class-Action For Union Pacific Lawsuit

    By Jon Gambrell May 11, 2009 A lawsuit claiming Union Pacific pressured grieving families into settlements after train crashes shouldn't be a class-action matter, as those suing failed to show any strong link between themselves, the Arkansas Supreme Court has ruled. Justice Elana Cunningham Wills wrote in the Court opinion that Miller County Circuit Judge Jim Hudson erred in granting the case class-action status. Arkansas residents James Freeman, Robert Udell and Victor Vickers sued the company, asking for class-action status to involve anyone injured or who lost a family member in crashes at crossings, on a rail or near one from 1992 to Feb. 15, 2005. Udell's daughter was killed in an incident involving a Union Pacific train. Vickers and Freeman suffered injuries in separate incidents. Lawyers for the families said as many as 300 who settled cases with Union Pacific without a legal assistance could be included as plaintiffs. However, Wills wrote that wasn't strong enough to support a class-action lawsuit against the Omaha, Neb.-based railroad carrier. "The only thing that all of the plaintiffs have in common is that they settled a claim against Union Pacific," Wills wrote. In a dissent, Justice Annabelle Clinton Imber wrote that testimony from Union Pacific's former claims department director showed that the company had a "consistent pattern and practice" for settling claims. That included reaching families within 48 hours of a crash while they still didn't have legal counsel, Imber wrote. "In the negotiations, claims representatives attempted to establish relationships of trust and confidence," the justice wrote. The plaintiffs "were told that 'a lawyer wouldn't do you any good' and that 'if you get a lawyer, you probably wouldn't ... get a certain amount ... because most of it would go to the lawyer fee."' Tom Lange, a spokesman for Union Pacific, said the company was "gratified that the court agreed there was no evidence of a pattern of misconduct." Phillip Duncan, a Little Rock lawyer representing the families suing the railroad company, did not return a call for comment.

    Comment: Of course this decision has no impact upon FELA claims since the Plaintiffs were passengers and family members of deceased passengers; however, if you look at some of the comments about the railroad's behavior, it is quite apparent that the intimidation and deception employed by a claim's agent to an injured FELA claimant is not exclusive to them but also reaches into non-railroad injured persons. On the legal side, certification of a "class" is a hard thing to acheive. It is necessary to prove common issues of law as well as common types of damages. This would be very hard to demonstrate for auto/train intersection collisions. There are so many variable such as (1) what was the vegetation growth like; (2) was it day or night?, (3) was a horn used?, (4) what was the speed of the train? (5) were the cars on side tracks, etc. When I think about this case, I can't help but think that the main driving force behind this attempt to certify it as a class, were the lawyers.
    Last edited by FELA FELLA; 08-30-2009, 10:14 AM.
    Steve Gordon
    Gordon, Elias & Seely, L.L.P.
    FELA Lawyer
    FELA Lawyer Blog
    Serving Injured Railroad Employees Nationwide
    Call for a FELA Lawyer 24/7/365
    800-773-6770

  • #2
    Suit settled by Union Pacific following 2005 train crash

    Posted: Aug 29, 2009 10:39 PM CDT Saturday, August 29, 2009 11:39 PM EST Updated: Aug 29, 2009 10:39 PM CDT TEXARKANA, AR (KSLA) -More than 2,000 people in Texarkana, Arkansas has joined in a lawsuit filed against Union Pacific Railroad following a two train collision that happened nearly four years ago.
    Back in 2005, two trains collided in Texarkana causing an explosion, killing one person and destroying a number of homes and vehicles.
    Now Union Pacific Railroad has settled out of court with the more than 2,000 plaintiffs in the suit.
    The attorney Gary Nutter represents nearly 1,500 of the people who filed the suit. "Each claim will have to be considered individually and approved by the defendant, the railroad," said Nutter. "Each settlement will have to be processed individually and paid individually which takes a period of time."
    Nutter says the people whose homes and businesses were closer to the explosion site will be the ones getting paid first.
    Steve Gordon
    Gordon, Elias & Seely, L.L.P.
    FELA Lawyer
    FELA Lawyer Blog
    Serving Injured Railroad Employees Nationwide
    Call for a FELA Lawyer 24/7/365
    800-773-6770

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