(Reno, Nevada – June 29, 2012)
Attorneys representing John Davis Trucking as well as those representing the children of an Amtrak conductor who was killed in a tragic June 24, 2011 truck/train collision east of Reno, NV have accused Union Pacific Railroad, upon which the Amtrak passenger train was operating, of tampering with or destroying key evidence from the site.
Truck driver, Lawrence Valli, and Amtrak conductor, Laurette Lee, both were killed in the collision, as were four Amtrak passengers, and to date, 15 lawsuits have been filed by attorneys representing the deceased or some of the 100 passengers who received various injuries.
Steve Jaffe, attorney representing John Davis Trucking, and Jay Sullivan, lawyer for Lee’s children, are in agreement that the crossing gates at the scene could not have properly functioned because skid marks made by the truck did not divert from a path leading directly to where the gates would have blocked Valli’s path, yet photographic evidence taken after the accident show the gate was undamaged.
Jaffe requested a dismissal of the lawsuits against his client, telling a federal judge that instead of preserving evidence, Union Pacific altered and then destroyed the crossing gate from the crash scene, thus making it difficult for the trucking company to defend itself against claim’s that the truck driver was at fault. Union Pacific said it left the gate in place so that it could have been inspected by lawyers involved in the numerous lawsuits.
Sullivan, meanwhile, said that “There’s credible evidence that the gates came down late or not at all,” adding that “A late deployment of the crossing gate would help explain why Mr. Valli drove his truck into the train.”
The attorneys also refer to a Reno Gazette-Journal investigative article published Sunday, June 24, 2012, which found that despite numerous reports of close calls by locomotive engineers at the rural U.S. 95/UPRR crossing, the Nevada DOT had failed to make any safety improvements at the crossing in question.