In Hurricane, West Virginia, a father is fighting to seek justice against CSX, the City of Hurricane, and the Putnam County Board of Education for his son’s tragic death. The wrongful death lawsuit was filed in 2012 and is back in Putnam Circuit Court. A hearing is set for 2015.
On January 29, 2012, Richard Dwayne Ball’s son was walking near Hurricane High school across a set of train tracks, as is customary for students and local pedestrians. His son was walking on the tracks, allegedly with music playing through earphones when a CSX train then struck him from behind. Mr. Ball’s son sustained fatal injuries and later died in the hospital.
Mr. Ball, the plaintiff and administrator of his son’s estate, argues that there were inadequate warnings to protect passing pedestrians. The lawsuit states, “Despite the nuisance created by this area of the track, there were not adequate warnings or barriers present to deter students/pedestrians.” As an area known to be an unofficial pedestrian throughway, CSX should have acknowledged the walking culture around this particular track and equipped the area with adequate signage to warn of incoming trains. Furthermore, Mr. Ball is suing the City of Hurricane and the Putnam County Board of Education for knowingly allowing students and pedestrians access to the perilous conditions. According to the lawsuit, Hurricane and the school district “took no action to correct or otherwise warn of the hazard and nuisance presented by this area.” No signs existed to warn or deter pedestrians.
CSX claims that Mr. Ball’s son was trespassing and blocking his hearing, in an attempt to place the contributory fault for the situation on the teen’s shoulders.
Richard Ball argues that CSX had the responsibility to, among other things, operate the train at a safe speed, considering the known pedestrians in the area.
Hurricane and the school district also denied all allegations. The Ball estate seeks wrongful death statutory compensation as well as punitive damages for his son’s death.
Railroads like CSX often point to trespassing whenever a pedestrian is killed along the railroad’s owned tracks, but a longstanding pattern of a pedestrian path or use as a public walkway can place partial responsibility on a railroad—especially if there are no warnings posted. However, wearing earbuds, and walking directly along a railroad right of way may also constitute “contributory negligence” especially if the pedestrian is playing loud music and might not hear the approaching train.