Kin Sue Amtrak Over Rhode Island Woman’s Death After Fall

By LAURA CRIMALDI | October 28, 2011

The family of a 91-year-old woman who died a week and a half after falling on a train station platform sued Amtrak on Wednesday, saying she was knocked to the ground by the force of a passing Acela Express train.

Ruth Tomlin Gronneberg was standing on a platform at the Kingston station on June 17 waiting for her granddaughter to arrive on a local train from New York City when the high-speed train passed by. She fell, fracturing her left hip and wrist.

The complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Providence said Amtrak was negligent and didn’t provide “adequate warning” when running the train through the station. A spokesman for Amtrak, which is based in Washington, declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Gronneberg had been accompanied by her husband, Edward, who says he also felt a gust of air from the train, said his attorney Peter J. Cerilli. Edward Gronneberg, who is in his 90s, wasn’t injured, Cerilli said.

Ruth Tomlin Gronneberg, a South Kingstown resident, died June 28 at South County Hospital. Cerilli said Gronneberg died from complications resulting from the hip injury.

“They were in good shape and mobile and active,” Cerilli said. “It’s really sad.”

The suit is brought by Gronneberg’s widower and her son, David H. Tomlin, who retired in June as associate general counsel for The Associated Press but remains on the legal staff as a part-time legal adviser. Tomlin is executor of his mother’s estate and a plaintiff in the suit.

The complaint said Gronneberg “endured extreme pain and suffering” before her death. She also incurred medical and hospital costs, it said.

Amtrak, the suit said, “knew or should have known that the Acela train moving at a high speed through a station could cause severe blasts of air, which endangered all persons on the platform, including (Gronneberg).”

Cerilli said he doesn’t know how fast the Acela was traveling when it went through the open-air station. The Acela Express travels at speeds up to 150 miles per hour, according to the Amtrak website.

He said the family wants the lawsuit to raise safety issues, including warnings of the Acela’s approach or whether the station platform should be cleared when a high-speed train passes through. The suit also seeks an unspecified amount in damages.

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