Amtrak has filed a lawsuit against the Nevada trucking company whose driver crashed through a railroad crossing gate and into the side of the California-bound Zephyr train last week, killing 6 people and injuring 20 others. Amtrak filed the lawsuit against John Davis Trucking Co. of Battle Mountain, Nevada, seeking at least $10 million in damages over the fiery crash.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Reno Wednesday afternoon, alleges that John Davis Trucking is liable for damages because either it improperly trained or failed to train altogether the driver who slammed his truck into the train despite properly functioning warning gates and flashing lights at the crossing.
Lawrence Valli, 43, was leading a three-truck convoy hauling gravel on U.S. highway 95 when the crash occurred about 70 miles east of Reno.The drivers of the other trucks told investigators that they saw the train approaching and the crossing gate flashing its warning lights, and wondered why Mr. Valli wasn’t stopping.
Mr. Valli slammed on his brakes just short of the crossing gate but it was too late to avoid a collision. His truck left a 320-foot skid mark on the road before crashing into the double-decker Amtrak passenger train, which was traveling at 78 mph at the time. The crash killed Mr. Valli, an Amtrak conductor, and four passengers.
Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration records reveal that John Davis Trucking Company has been cited for 17 safety violations, including one for driving with bald tires that warranted taking the vehicle out of service. The company also received citations for unsafe driving, defective and missing springs, among other violations, and its trucks have been involved in two other crashes since 2009.
According to an Associated Press report, John Davis Trucking hired Mr. Valli despite his own lackluster driving record. “Records show he had been ticketed three times for speeding in California over the last four years, and was arrested in Nevada in 2007 for skipping a court date after letting his vehicle registration expire,” the AP reported.
Amtrak’s lawsuit asserts the trucking company “negligently hired Valli and diligently entrusted the vehicle to Valli, who it knew or should have known was incompetent and/or unqualified to operate the Peterbilt tractor trailer combination.”
John David trucking currently faces another lawsuit over the Nevada crash filed by Alexandra Curtis of Evanston, Ill., an Amtrak attendant who was injured in the collision. Ms. Curtis filed the lawsuit in a Washoe County, Nevada, state court Tuesday seeking damages for injuries she suffered due to negligence on the part of John Davis trucking and its driver.