A North Carolina woman is suing Amtrak alleging the rail company failed to protect her from an employee who brutally raped her in her sleeping cabin as the train traveled through Wolf Point, Montana, in April 2015.
According to the Great Falls Tribune, the plaintiff was taking a cross-country “bucket list” train excursion from the East Coast with her sisters when 59-year-old Amtrak attendant Charles Henry Pinner entered her cabin, locked the door, and violently raped her.
The woman, who was 68 at the time of the rape, argues in her lawsuit that the Common Carrier Doctrine requires Amtrak to be held to the “highest degree of care” regarding passenger safety. Amtrak’s lawyers argue that the doctrine only applies when an employee is acting within the scope of their job responsibilities, the Tribune reported.
Mr. Pinner, who is now 61, was convicted of kidnapping and sexual intercourse without consent in September 2016 and is serving 60 years in prison for the rape. He is appealing his conviction.
The woman’s lawsuit says that the rape caused her to develop post-traumatic stress disorder and rape trauma disorder in addition to anxiety and depression. She continues to undergo psychiatric and psychological treatment and takes antidepressants, the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit presents a troubling picture of Mr. Pinner, who was a convicted felon even before Amtrak first hired him. The lawsuit asserts that Amtrak failed to run an “industry-standard” background check on Mr. Pinner even when he acknowledged a criminal history on his job application. Had Amtrak checked his background, it would have found past convictions of felony robbery and drug trafficking, the lawsuit says.
The plaintiff’s complaint also notes that Mr. Pinner, who is black, told a female coworker in 2000 that, “I have no trouble strangling a white woman,” and other violent, racist remarks.
Amtrak even fired Mr. Pinner in 2002 over alleged violations of Amtrak’s personal conduct, honesty, and safety policies, but reinstated him after five months. He was again dismissed in 2006 after investigators found he was selling pornography on the job, but he got his job back on appeal after he and his union argued that the punishment of termination was too severe for the violation, according to the Tribune.