Louisiana High Court Rules Railroad Companies Not Liable for Crash

April 25, 2014

The Louisiana Supreme Court has ruled that the Kenner and the Illinois Central Railroad Co. are not liable for a 2009 crash in which a train struck and killed a deaf woman trying to cross the tracks at an unguarded intersection.

The Advocate reports the state’s high court, in a 6-1 decision last week, called the death of 58-year-old Cynthia Tuckson “a tragic accident.” But, it dismissed a wrongful-death lawsuit that claimed the crossing was unreasonably dangerous and should have been equipped with crossing gates and flashing lights.

The ruling reversed an October appellate decision that would have allowed the case to be heard by a Jefferson Parish jury.

New Orleans attorney Harry E. Forst said Tuckson’s son, Donald Davis, was “distraught and upset” at the ruling, which he said likely is the end of the road for the case. Tuckson’s family members could not be reached for comment.

“I think all he asked for was his day in court,” Forst said of Davis. “That’s really what he wanted, to show that the community in fact knew that this area, this crossing, was dangerous and should have had an active warning system. Everybody in the neighborhood knew that.”

The crash happened about 7:20 p.m. on July 25, 2009, in daylight, as Tuckson was walking north toward her home. She lived alongside the tracks on Kenner Avenue, not far from the site of the accident, and had crossed the intersection many times. At the time, the crossing was marked by post-mounted crossbuck signs, as required by state law, but lacked an active warning system to visually alert motorists and pedestrians of an oncoming train.

In court filings, Davis contended that someone at a park near the tracks had been trying to get his mother’s attention “to tell her to get off the tracks, that a train was coming.”

“She was deaf and she could not understand what the person was saying,” Davis added. “Evidently, she did not feel the vibration.”

Video footage from the train showed Tuckson “walking steadily toward the tracks, gazing straight ahead without looking to either side,” according to court documents. The train arrived at the Taylor Street crossing just as Tuckson stepped onto the tracks.

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