Amtrak sues dump truck owner after fatal Missouri train derailment

Amtrak and BNSF Railway have filed a federal lawsuit alleging the Missouri company’s negligence led to the train derailment and derailment on Monday that killed four people, including the company’s dump truck driver.

The Southwest Chief train, en route from Los Angeles to Chicago with 275 passengers and 12 crew members, crashed into the back of a dump truck near Mendon, Missouri, northwest of Columbia, at a railroad crossing that was not marked with electronic signals or crossbars. .

Amtrak and BNSF, filed on Thursday in US District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, named MS Contracting as the defendant.

According to the lawsuit, the dump truck driver, 53-year-old Billy Barton II, was delivering the stones “for and on behalf of MS Contracting” in a truck owned by the company on the day of the crash.

He tried to cross a railroad intersection “despite the fact that it was unsafe, reckless and reckless due to the highly visible approaching Amtrak train,” court documents say.

The lawsuit alleges that the accident and subsequent derailment cost BNSF and Amtrak, which operates its trains on the freight company-owned railroad, “damages well over US$75,000” each.

“MS Contracting negligently, negligently and recklessly operated a dump truck, resulting in a collision with an Amtrak Train 4 and derailment,” the lawsuit states.

Among the suit’s claims is that MS Contracting and its agents, officers and employees did not service, inspect or repair a 2007 Kenworth dump truck that was involved in an accident.

According to court documents, Amtrak and BNSF also allege that MS Contracting “failed to properly train and supervise its employees, including Bill Burton.”

“At all times relevant to this complaint, Barton’s actions were: (1) within the scope of his employment with MS Contracting; (2) with the permission, consent and knowledge of MS Contracting; and (3) for the benefit of MS Contracting and under its direction and control,” the lawsuit states.

The lawsuit alleges that MS Contracting’s alleged lack of policies and procedures for operating vehicles at level crossings was the cause of the collision and derailment.

Michael E. Sutman, a registered agent for MS Contracting, declined to comment Thursday and told The Times to ask questions of the National Transportation Safety Board, which is investigating the crash.

Asked if he had lawyers, Satman said, “They won’t comment either.” Then he hung up.

NTSB officials said the accident investigation would focus on the level crossing, which was planned to improve and was concern for the safety of local farmers.

The collision was unlikely to be due to mechanical or track problems, officials said.

In addition to Barton, three passengers on the train were killed in the derailment. More than 150 people were injured.

Jeff Goodman, a public transport lawyer who has represented passengers and their families in disasters, said the companies involved are “already pointing the finger at each other instead of focusing on what safety improvements need to be made.”

The companies’ actions point to a “lack of safety priority” at Amtrak and BNSF, Goodman said.

“Instead of wasting their resources on subterfuge and litigation tactics, Amtrak and BNSF should focus on preventing another catastrophe,” he said.

Times Staff Writer Richard Winton contributed to this report.