Jury Hears Opening Statements in Suit Over Texas Parade Crash

January 30, 2015

A freight train that slammed into a parade float two years ago, killing four veterans and injuring 16 other people, came within 39 inches of missing the trailer, attorneys for both sides told a West Texas jury Wednesday.

A Midland County jury heard opening statements in a lawsuit filed against Union Pacific Corp. on behalf of 17 plaintiffs, including the families of three of the four veterans killed in the crash at a Midland railroad crossing.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Dickey Grigg told jurors that had Union Pacific given better warning of the train’s approach and had the train traveled at a safer speed, the float would have been safe, the Midland Reporter-Telegram reported.

John Proctor, Union Pacific’s defense attorney, said a “perfect storm” of factors caused the crash, including Midland police leading the parade floats through red lights, the lack of police lookouts for a train and the failure of float drivers to take “stop, look, listen,” precautions at the railroad crossing where the crash happened.

“It was a combination of events that were totally unforeseeable,” Proctor told the jury.

The first witnesses presented by the plaintiffs were military comrades of the three dead veterans whose families are parties to the lawsuit: Gary Stouffer, William Lubbers and Lawrence Boivin. Each described the service backgrounds of the dead veterans and recalled their experience of the seconds leading up to the crash, the newspaper reported.

The 17 plaintiffs are separate from 26 others who earlier this month settled their lawsuit against Union Pacific. The settlement is confidential but Kevin Glasheen, the lawyer who represented families that settled, said at the time the families were “very satisfied.”

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