Personal-injury and wrongful-death lawsuits continue to pile up against John Davis Trucking Company of Battle Mountain, Nevada, after one of its trucks ran a crossing gate and slammed into the side of a double-decker Amtrak train June 24, killing five people and injuring 20 others.
The latest victims of that crash to file a lawsuit against John Davis Trucking are two Korean nationals, a mother and son from Seoul, South Korea, who boarded the California-bound Zephyr train in Salt Lake City a few hours before the collision.
According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs were “seriously and permanently injured” when the truck crashed into the side of the train, which was traveling nearly 80 miles per hour when the crash occurred about 70 miles east of Reno.
The truck’s driver, Lawrence Valli, 43, was leading a three-truck convoy hauling gravel on U.S. highway 95. 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 train. Mr. Valli died in the crash.
The crash remains under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), which is expected to release its report within the next few months.
The South Korean plaintiffs allege the trucking company’s negligence caused the deadly crash. Both Amtrak and Union Pacific Railroad, the owner of the tracks, have filed suits against John David Trucking.
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.”
An Associated Press report seemed to substantiate that claim, noting that John Davis Trucking hired Mr. Valli despite his lackluster driving record, which included three California speeding tickets and a 2007 arrest in Nevada for skipping a court date after letting his vehicle registration expire.
John Davis Trucking has countersued both rail companies, arguing the crossing where the crash occurred wasn’t safe.