Skip to Main Content
Railroad News

Authorities Seek Scapegoat For $2.3 Million Derailment A $30 Sign Could Have Prevented

By Pottroff & Karlin LLC |

(Leoni Township, Michigan – May 2, 2012)

The driver of a semi-trailer truck whose rig got hung-up on a high profile grade crossing in Leoni Township, MI that lacked a “Low Ground Clearance” warning sign, only to have a Chicago-bound Amtrak train carrying 68 passengers hit the truck and derail in February, injuring 10 of those on board and costing $2.3 million in damages, is fighting a $296 ticket issued by the Blackman/Leoni Police Dept. for his failure to comply with a non-existent sign warning of the crossing’s condition.

Truck driver David Zimmer says he will “fight the ticket to the end,” because he was not guilty of anything, rather charging that Jackson County, MI transportation dept. failed to erect a sign that would have warned him against attempting to take his 18-wheeler loaded with oil field equipment across the humped crossing of Portage Road and Norfolk Southern railroad tracks.

Reports from both Amtrak and Norfolk Southern posted on the Federal Railroad Administration’s Office of Safety Analysis webpage Wednesday said the $2.3 million included $2.2 million in railroad equipment, $37,000 in track damage and $50,000 for the 18-wheeler and its load.

Meanwhile, lists the cost of one W10-5 “Low Ground Clearance” warning sign, in compliance with the mandates of the Uniform Code Of Traffic Control Devices in “engineer grade” as $32.15, with discounts for each increment of five signs. One properly placed sign would have steered Zimmer and his rig to a crossing less likely to cause the truck to become hung-up on the crossing.

Maybe transportation and railroad officials never heard of the old adage that advises “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


Railroad News


Train crash cases are unique and complex with many different potential pitfalls, such as federal preemption. Anytime I get hired or even get a call from a train crash victim, my very first call is to Nathan’s firm. Nathan’s knowledge and experience in handling and trying cases against these litigation savvy railroad companies gives me the confidence to know that the clients and cases I refer to him are getting the best of the best.

James Perrin Lubbock, Texas

I have had the opportunity to work as co-counsel with Nathan on several railroad crossing accidents cases. In each case, Nathan always possessed an incredible knowledge of the law and the facts, possessed a great talent for aggressive - strategic legal planning and trial tactics while, at the same time, displaying great skill as an effective negotiator. I would recommend him to anyone without hesitation.

Scott McCluen Harriman, Tennessee

Nathan Karlin has my strongest endorsement in the field of railroad crossing cases and personal injury law. I had the pleasure of working with Nathan in a complex railroad personal injury case. I was impressed by Nathan’s knowledge, his work ethic, and his dedication to the client. I look forward to working with Nathan on future injury matters. I am also aware firsthand that he has obtained excellent trial and settlement results in numerous cases involving members of the public harmed by railroad companies.

Joseph M. Miller Mandeville, Louisiana

Nathan is a warrior fighting the railroads. As a fellow personal injury lawyer, I have constantly been impressed with his depth of knowledge and his capabilities from case to case. I’d take him into battle with me any day against the biggest railroads and insurance companies on the planet.

Jon C. Clark Austin, Texas

Bob Pottroff has fought for the victims of the railroads’ callous disregard for safety more than any other attorney that I know. I should know because I am currently Chair-elect of the Railroad Section of ATLA.

Robert Schuetze Boulder, Colorado

Mr. Pottroff has shaken the rail industry to its very roots. Settlements are now more common as a result of the way he has exposed the industry’s wrongdoing.

Mike Easley Arkansas

Bob Pottroff’s work in railroad safety law is unmatched and he has been the source of great advice and phenomenal creativity.

Roger Brown Jefferson City, Missouri

In addition to his substantive contributions to railroad grade crossing safety, I have personally observed his untiring efforts and contributions to improving the integrity of the legal system.

Elizabeth Hardy Lake Charles, Louisiana

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8