Jury to hear lawsuit in RR fatality

Jury to hear lawsuit in RR fatality

Posted: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 6:00 pm

The Messenger 09.14.10

A jury was seated Monday afternoon in Obion County Circuit Court to hear a civil lawsuit filed in the 2005 death of a man who died when he fell beneath some railroad cars.
Jose Luis Molina, 43, of Union City died Aug. 23, 2005, when he apparently fell from a railroad car and slipped beneath the wheels on a stretch of railroad tracks on North Second Street, just north of West Main Street, in downtown Union City, police reported.
Molina was employed as a laborer for Union City Grain Co. at the time.
A witness told police Molina was on a railway car, which was being moved by other grain company employees with the use of a front-end loader, when he slipped and fell beneath the cars. The stretch of tracks is located just east of Union City Grain’s complex.
Molina was pronounced dead at the scene.
Molina’s widow, Mary Ann Molina, also known as Mary Ann Barahona, filed the suit against Canadian National Railroad, doing business as Illinois Central Railroad Co., and Union City Grain Co. for her husband’s “personal injuries and wrongful death,” according to the complaint.
The complaint contends that several days prior to the accident, a grain company representative requested the railroad furnish a locomotive to serve as a switch engine to move several empty train hopper cars to the grain elevators for filling. The suit alleges the railroad failed to send the switch engine and, on Aug. 23, the grain company manager instructed several employees to move the hopper cars — which numbered about seven — to the grain elevators by use of the grain company’s front-end loader.
The suit alleges a grain company employee operated the front-end loader and proceeded to move the empty cars by pushing them with the front-end loader and then letting them “free wheel” for a distance. The movement required the crossing of at least three city streets in downtown Union City.
According to the complaint, another grain company employee was required to attempt to operate the CN track switch for the CN tracks near the Second Street crossing because the switch was defective and not operational. There were about five cars in a line between Second and Third streets, then a break in the cars, then two additional cars. The cars allegedly were not locked together and the suit contends the front-end loader was not properly designed or fit for the particular purpose of the movement of the railroad cars and was unable to control the movement of the train cars.
“The two-car line had crossed the crossing and then the five-car line was pushed across the crossing and, as the cars freewheeled, they violently and forcefully collided with the two-car line,” the complaint states.
Molina was riding on the platform on one of CN’s hopper cars, attempting to operate the brake, according to the complaint, which alleges neither the braking system on the CN car or the CN rail switch were working properly.
“When the rail cars collided, Jose Molina was forced to fall underneath the cars from the rail car platform as a result of the defective switch, defective braking system and outrageous misuse of the front-end loader. (He) was knocked from the platform under the car wheels and dragged by the wheels, prior to being cut in half at the waist and killed,” according to the complaint.
Molina’s widow is seeking $7.5 million in compensatory damages and $3 million in punitive damages.
Circuit Judge William B. Acree Jr. is presiding over the civil trial.

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