Hearing scheduled in case of teens killed by train
The families of two teenage boys who were struck and killed by a train in 2011 are moving to have their lawsuits against the railway company consolidated in Montgomery County Circuit Court.
According to a motion filed in August, the families of Steven Robertson and Grayson Hoops want the two wrongful death suits to be tried together. A hearing on the motion is scheduled for tomorrow at 9 a.m.
Robertson, 16, and Hoops, 17, were juniors at Eastern Montgomery High School when they were killed on Feb. 13, 2011, as they walked on a railroad trestle across the south fork of the Roanoke River near Elliston.
Both families have filed lawsuits against Norfolk Southern Railway Company and Norfolk Southern Corporation. According to complaints, the railway company was negligent for a number of reasons.
The complaint filed by counsel for Leslie Robertson, Steven’s mother, states that Norfolk Southern knew that the community often used the trestle to access Pedlar Hills, a state-owned nature preserve. The railroad corporation had discussions about building a footbridge in the area so pedestrians could more easily access the forested tract but never did, according to the complaint.
Robertson’s complaint and the complaint filed by counsel for Grayson’s mother, Leigh Hieatt, allege that the individuals operating the train failed to sound the whistle, bell or horn when they first came into view of the boys. The operator also failed to apply the brakes or decelerate, according to the complaints.
The complaints allege that Norfolk Southern’s operation of the train and maintenance of the area was a nuisance and that the corporation’s actions were willful and wanton.
“Because of negligence of the defendants and/or because of the [Norfolk Southern] defendants creation of a nuisance, Hoops was allowed access to the railroad tracks and killed,” Hieatt’s complaint states.
Both families are demanding a judgment of $10 million for compensatory damages. Robertson’s complaint requests $5 million for punitive damages, while Hieatt’s complaint is asking for $350,000.
Both families have requested a jury trial.
According to Norfolk Southern’s answers to the complaints, the plaintiffs failed to state viable claims.
“The complaint is based on the incorrect assumption that [Norfolk Southern Railway Company] owed a duty of provision, a duty to keep the premises in a reasonable safe condition, a duty to warn of the approach of a train, a duty to construct barriers, a duty to establish safety protocols … and other duties not required by Virginia law,” Norfolk Southern’s answer to Robertson’s complaint states.
The railway company’s responses state that the plaintiffs have failed to allege any facts that the company knew or should have known that the boys were on the tracks or that the operators saw the boys in time to avoid the accident.
Richard Cranwell, Robertson’s lawyer, declined to discuss further details of the case Friday but said he hopes setting trial dates will be the next step after Tuesday’s hearing.