Judge Awards Families Additional $4M For Railroad's Misconduct

KARE 11October 16, 2009

KARE 11

This week, the families of the four young adults who died when a freight train slammed into their car, were awarded $4 million when a Washington County judge ruled the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Company tried to cover up evidence during the trial.

In that trial, which ended a year ago, a jury awarded the families $21 million and placed 90 percent of the blame for the crash on Burlington Northern.

The additional $4 million is a sanction against the railroad for what Judge Ellen Maas called "staggering" misconduct during the trial.

Maas said Burlington Northern failed to disclose that it knew about problems with the warning signal at the crossing, it destroyed records of work done on the railroad tracks, and most significantly, it either lost or destroyed a recording of the collision. That recording contained the same kind of information that would be in an airplane's black box.

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