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$9 Million Verdict in Train Crash Case against Burlington Northern

Chavez & Gertler won a major trial victory against Burlington Northern, one of the largest railroads in the nation. The case arose from a collision at a dangerous railroad crossing between a train and a PG&E truck driver. The driver suffered traumatic brain damage and spinal fractures. The trial, which was handled by Chavez & Gertler partner Jon Gertler, lasted about nine weeks.

The jury found that the railroad, then called Burlington Northern Santa Fe, was negligent in causing the collision at an unmarked and unsafe railroad crossing, and rendered a total verdict of almost $9 million. The jury also found that the railroad acted despicably, and ordered it to pay $2 million in punishment or punitive damages for consciously disregarding the safety of the public.

At the end of the trial, a railroad executive agreed in open court to inspect all 10,000 or so of its private railroad crossings to make sure they are not unsafe and make them safe where necessary. Pietrowski v. BNSF RR Case No., C 02-00335 C 02-00335 (Contra Costa County Superior Court).

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